OA Bloggers Interview Project

It’s the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project! Everyone who’d like to join in will be paired with a fellow open adoption blogger. You’ll have two weeks to get to know their blog and send them some interview questions by email. On March 22, you’ll post the interview on your blog and your partner will post their interview of you. It’s a double benefit to everyone who participates: you’ll get to know a blogger better and introduce them to your readers, and your blog will be introduced to their audience. Hooray for networking and cross-pollination!

My interview was with Maru, a woman who has had a very different experience with adoption than I have. One note: I use the phrase “settle on,” as in “decide on,” as in “How did you settle on June 13 for the wedding date?” I think Maru may have heard it as “settle for,” which would be unfortunate. I came to Maru’s blog for the interview, but stayed for the pictures–her daughter is a beauty!

How did you settle on semi-open adoption (pictures and letters, but no visits)? Well, we didn’t “settle”. Our daughter’s birthparents chose us when they were at the hospital. We’re not exactly sure when we were chosen – before or after the birth – since she was giving birth prematurely and they were not working with any agency yet. From what we gathered, they talked to the hospital’s social worker and she put them in contact with the agency we were working with. Our agency’s social worker went to visit them at the hospital the day our daughter was born. We got the call the next evening, got in a plane and arrived at the hospital the following morning. When we got there the birthmother had already been discharged and we were told she didn’t want to meet us. The birthfather wanted to, though.  Later, she changed her mind and we met them, briefly, only for 3 hours, when our daughter was 3 days old. They asked us not to bring our daughter for this meeting. I think that we might considered an open adoption and they just wanted a semi-open adoption – only letters and pictures. I’m not sure if it was their choice, or the agency’s choice. I feel like this was decided for us. Talking to my husband about it, he brought to my attention an interesting detail I had completely forgotten. When we got our family profile together, we expressed our feelings about openness, something along the line of “We want you to be a part of your baby’s life”.  The agency reviewed the profile and suggested we removed that from our letter. They explained that we hadn’t met the birthparents yet and were afraid we might be overpowered by our feelings. The best way to go was to wait and see how things panned out after we met them and then talk about it. That never happened. When we signed the legal papers at the hospital they gave us an agreement and everything had already been decided. I can describe such agreement as a schedule of when to send letters and pictures. That’s what it mostly is. We never had the opportunity to talk to them about openness. We were so busy being in complete shock that we didn’t even mentioned it when we met them. If it was in fact the birthparents’ decision to have a semi-open adoption, we totally respect their wishes. I think about them often and wonder how they are doing. It’s a little frustrating sometimes to send pictures, letters, albums, and not hear from them. I wish we could meet again someday and hopefully bring our daughter this time. Now, even if the agency handed us an agreement where we didn’t have a say, for whatever reason, the final or long term agreement about openness will be made between us, the birthparents and the adoptive parents. They might respond to our letters years from now, when they have come to terms with this whole process. If we want to meet, it will be our decision. The agency followed their guidelines considering their experience. It was the wise and healthy way to handle such a delicate process under the circumstances, where our feelings might get in the way. When the moment comes we’ll also have to think about our daughter. We’ll always do what is best for her.

You’ve mentioned lying when people ask about your daughter’s nationality and appearance, lies which seem designed to protect your daughter’s privacy: do you think you’ll handle those questions the same way when she’s old enough to understand what’s being talked about? I don’t lie about her nationality. People who are close to us know we adopted in the US and it’s very obvious from her gorgeous looks she’s from Asian origins. However, we’re still in a place where we struggle with privacy. We don’t know yet when we’re sharing too much.  I know she should be the sole owner of her story and even when we embrace every aspect of the adoption – it’s how our family came together –  we’re not sure where to draw the line. I might explain to some stranger who asks about her looks that my daughter was adopted, but from my experience so far this just opens the doors for uncomfortable questions or remarks, and while I’m all up for educating and being an adoption ambassador, sometimes I just need a break from insensitive comments. If you’re asking because I said she inherited her looks from my mother in law, I just did that to keep people off my back when they start to pry into our personal lives. I know I need to handle those questions differently when she’s older, and why not start now, but at that moment I felt as if we were on display. It’s an uneasy feeling I can’t explain… I don’t resent these questions as much now. And, of course, we’ll talk to her about it and let her decide how to handle the same questions on her own. Adoption is a growing process, one where you learn in stages, and we’re still learning.

Before you were matched, you seemed pretty confident that you would be getting a girl: Did your agency let you choose gender ahead of time? How did you decide on a daughter? Yes, they let us choose. It felt a little awkward when I wrote that down on the adoption paperwork, as if how could I be so choosy?, but I figured that if they were asking we should be assertive and say what we wanted. And we’ve always wanted a girl. I imagined having a baby girl in my arms… I had visions of her when she was older… When we had our baby shower we did it for a girl, and we had already picked up a name for her. It had to be a girl! Interestingly enough, the other agencies we researched and visited wouldn’t allow us to choose.

Were you only open to “baby born” situations? No, but that’s just what happened. We wanted a newborn. The agency explained that the call we would receive could be about a birthmom who chose us while she was still pregnant, or a baby that was just born, or even a baby a few weeks old. We were open to any case. We were really hoping to meet the birthmother while pregnant, but as I explained earlier, we were matched right after birth.

At one point, you refer to waiting for “my Juno”; did you see Juno? What did you think? Well, I liked the movie, but when I saw it I wasn’t even thinking about adoption. I was in the middle of our infertility crisis and could relate to the character of the adoptive mom – she wanted to be a mom so bad. I think the character of Juno was not very realistic. She seemed a little, I don’t know… Aloof? Nevertheless, when I saw the movie it was the first time I heard about domestic adoption. The second time was on the last season of the TV show “Friends”. So we really didn’t know this type of adoption existed. When we were researching about adoption, visiting agencies, reading blogs, etc. we learned so much more about what domestic adoption really is. I don’t think neither Juno nor Friends did a very good job portraying the reality of open domestic adoption, but at least they tried. I used the term “Juno” to refer to a prospective birthmom, just as a friend did when she waiting to be matched. When I told my friends and loved ones about domestic adoption they had no idea of what it was and I always used the movie as an example. Now that I think about it, I hope it was not offensive to other birthmothers out there who might have read my post. I never meant to trivialize their role. We’re not in complete contact with our daughter’s birthmom, but we honor her very much.

You’ve articulated a belief that I know a lot of adoptive parents hold: that “God planned her for us.” I know that for some adoptive parents, that feeling is complicated by the implication that God would plan a crisis pregnancy and the loss of a child for the birthmother—how do you think about this? It’s very difficult to talk about such a delicate subject when so many feelings are involved… The first night we spent with our daughter was both exciting and emotional. We hadn’t met our daughter’s birthparents and I felt as if I was stealing their baby. Of course I wasn’t, but I remember I felt that way, and  the idea that we were so incredibly happy to have a baby in our arms was clashing with the fact that they were dealing with their loss. An incredible need to meet them overwhelmed me. I don’t think God planned a crisis pregnancy for our benefit. Complete strangers chose us – entrusted us – with the care and upbringing of their child. What are the odds of that happening? Our agency presented nine families to our daughter’s birthparents. Nine! And they chose us!  Of course God had something to do with it! Only God was able to put all the pieces together. I think God had some sort of plan to make every one’s situation better. A crisis pregnancy happened, and that family needed a solution. We’ve always dreamed to be parents and somehow all of us came together. Each of us – birthparents and adoptive parents – has endured, in different ways, the reality of loss. I don’t think God wanted us to suffer when we were battling infertility. However, I think going through infertility, knowing the pain of loss, has made us stronger and more prepared to be parents, and for that I thank Him. I think that I will always be a wonderful mother because of what I’ve been through.  No offense to biological mothers everywhere,  but women get pregnant every day and they take it for granted – it’s the most natural thing for them! I know they love their children so much it hurts, and I know they were happy to become mothers themselves, don’t get me wrong, but I’m absolutely certain it was different for me. That is precisely the “secret ingredient” that will make me a better mom. I believe the same goes to birthmothers. I think they are strong, exceptional human beings for choosing life for their baby and then going through the pain of losing their child. And I bet this painful experience will make them even stronger for when they become a mother again, and this time decide to parent. 

Slicing Carrots, Counting Down

Today is about getting ready for tomorrow. I went to a couple of grocery stores (spent too much on fruit), and now I’m cooking, glaring at my hair, and trying on clothes. It’s a beautiful day here, almost 70 degrees and breezy. I’m anxious about the upcoming visit, but I am at least finally convinced that it’s going to happen. Mr. Book has been at work all day, and we didn’t have a great yesterday—nothing dramatic, just slightly misreading each other’s signal’s all day—so I’m planning some relaxing beer and vegan taquitos for when he gets home.

I have exchanged emails with Ruth confirming that yes, we will see them tomorrow, and she suggested that the Mr. and I might want to go for a walk during Cricket’s nap the way we did last time: “[After your little jaunt last time,] It was really nice to see you seem a little more at east last time and being more affectionate and playful.”  Busted! I’m hoping that the gift car will give me an opening to interact with the kid; of course, now he can walk, so maybe he’ll walk over to me and start something. What a weird idea.

Wish me luck, please.

Making a Switch

I changed Cricket’s present. This is mostly because the truck is listed as “3+,” and while most of the reviews I read talked about giving it to much younger kids (it has no sharp edges or small parts), I worry that Ruth would not be comfortable disregarding the guideline. I’m sure I’ll give it to him at some point—maybe next year—but not this week. I keep wanting to give books, but I think that books are probably not super exciting to a fifteen-month-old child; so I picked out this:

real rubber wheels, even

It is a little more than five inches long, and intended for “12m+,” so I think I’m in the clear. It’s a Vilac car—I have a few of these in the hope chest, and think they’re great—lovely and sturdy little cars made out of lacquered (child-safe!) wood. One advantage of this little car is that I can wrap it (the truck was too awkwardly shaped), and thus I can attach this:

to the outside. It is a toddler crayon I got on etsy. =) It’s sort of cheating—two gifts in the guise of one—but it seemed like the right thing to do. See, I often find baby/kid stuff that I like, and want for the hope chest; this crayon, though, I saw and wanted specifically for Cricket. This was after I had gotten the truck, however, and there’s just no graceful way to link the two, though believe me I tried. The crayon being a gender-neutral gift is an added bonus.

Hopefully he will like at least one of these things.

Unnatural Woman

I’ve been thinking about writing this post since I saw this comment of ThanksgivingMom’s early this month, but Cynthia’s comment on my post yesterday has pushed me to actually do it. So here goes: I don’t think I love Cricket with full-blown mom love. I take it for granted that I don’t love him as much as his adoptive moms do, and I’m sure that I’ll love futurekid more than Cricket. I think I *did* love Cricket with that deep and authentic mother love for a couple of months, but it didn’t seem like I could do that and retain my sanity, so I stopped. I think it was the right decision at the time—I was completely melting down, and since I couldn’t get the kid back, I made the other survivable change—but there are some things that bother me about it, and I am going to make a list.

It sets me apart from other birth and first parents whom I like. ThanksgivingMom said (in that comment I linked) “That feeling (that we ALL have as Moms) that we love our kid more than anyone else – because it’s hard to fathom it being POSSIBLE to love more than we do.” I felt guilty reading that, because that’s not my experience—and while I don’t mind being unique, feeling less love isn’t the way I’d choose to stand out.

It’s going to impact Cricket. How could it not? I take for granted that he won’t love me like a mother, which will somehow make it all okay, but my therapist keeps poking that assumption and making me worry. I understand that my current level of love (now I sound like a robot =/) could change—if he loved me tons, I could then begin to love him the way I’m supposed to—but on some level I don’t want to, because then it’s back to the old problem of “My child is gone from me and my heart is broken.” Not that loving him less makes him less gone.

I’ve only performed this brain maneuver once before, and it was to forget some really bad things; remembering them was making it hard for me to be stable, so I stopped. I really don’t want the birth of my son and the love that I felt for him then to be in that category.

My therapist doesn’t believe me. Oh, she hasn’t outright called me a liar, but if you’ve had any therapy, well—you know that face they make, the one that says “You can of course lie to me, and even to yourself, but deep down inside blah blah blah.” It’s not quite smug. So if what I’m saying is actually unbelievable to her, that suggests to me that it’s pretty bad.

It’s already impacting Cricket. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m really reserved with him on visits; Mr. Book gets down on the floor and plays with him, and I sit in a chair and watch. That emotional holding back leads me to physically hold back—although I’m hoping that I can remain self-aware enough to force myself past this at the next visit. Will definitely post the results of this experiment.

Confessions

There’s a thread on an adoption forum right now that I’ve been following and not posting in, where people are posting their adoption confessions. I spent a couple of days trying to decide whether to write something or not, but then things started to trend toward “I confess to being a GREAT mom! :P” and while I’m glad that people have ownership of that feeling,  posting shameful, crappy things right after that would be too weird for me. But I want to mention one thing that would have gone on my list: Sometimes I hope that Cricket’s adoptive sibling will be not as cute/smart/charming as he is, so that he will be the best-loved. I know that not all parents play favorites, but many do—mine did—and if that’s how it’s going to be, I want Cricket to win. Maybe I should also hope for a brother, so that there is nothing obviously new and special about his little sib.

Shoot, maybe I’ll do my whole list of confessions here. The other day, I was talking about how the anniversary of me getting pregnant with Cricket is coming up, and I joked about making a sad cake, and he said “Our lives are better with him in them” and I thought “…maybe.” There are times when I do wish that I could go back and never have gotten pregnant. Last month an adoptee asked me and a few other birthmothers a sort of rambling question that I think came from her wanted to believe that her conception hadn’t been a mistake, and I thought, Planned pregnancies tend not to end in placement. (I didn’t say anything that blunt; I was nice.) There are also times when I wouldn’t go back and not get pregnant, but I haven’t felt that way for kind of awhile now, and I feel guilty about it.

Sometimes when I see adoptive parents have baby showers, I feel angry—or maybe the word I should be using is “jealous.” I think, You have plenty of money, you don’t need those gifts! Of course, there are plenty of people who adopt without being wealthy, and even the über rich can have friends and family throw them a party. It must be tied to the fact that I placed in large part because we couldn’t afford those things. When I do have a kid, it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll have a baby shower—and that’s fine, I don’t mean to sound as though I think I’m owed one—because I am unsociable and my family is far from here. I see pictures of prospective adoptive parents’ post-party haul, and I know that my kid will do without most of those things, and it bothers me a little. Envy and guilt wrapped up together.

I’m glad that I missed my son’s birthday party.

Ever since the adoption, the Mr. and I have referred to the cat, Aztec, as our baby. He’ll yell at me, and I’ll tell him to take it up with his father; my husband will tell him that it’s mommy’s turn to feed him. It’s  sort of a sick joke that’s just dragged on and on, and it doesn’t bother me unless I think about it and see that it’s unfortunate and strange. Heck, when Ruth and Nora came here for a visit last year, I joked that we should dress the cat in baby clothes to greet them. Ah, gallows humor.

Sometimes, late at night, when I can’t sleep but the Mr. has conked out, I imagine that Cricket is in bed between us, where he would likely be if we had parented him. It’s Cricket as he is now: a fair-skinned little toddler boy, cheeks flushed, eyes darting back and forth beneath their lids as he dreams. This never helps me sleep, and usually makes me cry.

Adoption-Free Friday

I’m not super interesting today, so I’m going to tell you five random things about myself; like a meme, only more shameless. 😉

-When I see mounted police, I (unconsciously and) unironically call them “horsie cops.” Out loud. To other adults. This may be a relic of not having encountered many officers on horses since early childhood, but, um. Sort of embarrassing.

-I’ve been a vegetarian longer than I was an omnivore; I think it’s probably a permanent change. That said, I can never quite talk myself into veganism—when I start to try, my husband worries. He’s not a vegetarian, but is happy to live in a vegetarian home. I think, though, that he would really mourn the loss of cheese.

-One of my favorite drinks is diet 7-Up mixed with orange juice and a lot of ice. I started drinking it in college, when I’d get up crazy early and have low blood sugar with nausea—I also drank a ton of it when I was pregnant. Now I’m at moderate levels of consumption, and I kind of want to name the concoction.

-I have bangs because I’m convinced that I have a huge forehead (aka “fivehead). My husband doesn’t like them (and at least pretends that he disagrees with me about forehead size), so I’m sort of kind of trying to grow them out, but I’m supposed to get my hair cut on Sunday and really have no idea what to ask for. I have fine, thin, straight hair. And sort of bangs. Both of my sisters have lovely thick hair—they can do anything. [jealous]

-My eyes are getting worse and worse, but I almost never wear my glasses outside the house. It’s not a vanity thing—believe me—I just don’t think of myself as a person who wears glasses. I know how goofy that sounds. I am wearing them more and more now, and I’m always astonished to find that I can see each individual leaf on a tree, or blades of grass. My parents are both wearing bifocals at age fifty, so I probably need to get used to the idea.

How About No

I got an email from Ruth this morning (sent last night, I guess) asking me (and about fifty other people) to take action and help extend the adoption tax credit. Now, I am confident that the credit will end up being extended, and I’m glad that the people I know who adopted kids were able to get some of their money back, but I really don’t think I should be her go-to guy on this one. It felt a little tacky, asking me to help facilitate adoptions. I’ve been asked to help prospective adoptive parents I don’t actually know (really don’t know—we’re on the same forums, but I haven’t spoken to them via email or what have you) to help with their “Dear Birthmother” letters, and I’m not really comfortable doing so beyond offering the most broad advice. If I really got involved, it would feel like I was helping them to misrepresent themselves to pregnant ladies, and yuck. I’d be happy to read and give feedback for people I know, and have reason to know are good and loving parents or parents-to-be, but that feels different.

I’m wandering a bit. All that I mean to say is that I found the email a little inappropriate, despite the fact that she included a line about how it is in birthparents’ best interests as well (provides them a more diverse group from which to choose). I’m not ordinarily that girl, but you know what? I’d rather see the $8k go to the parents placing their kids because of poverty. I know that’s not actually a solution; I don’t want adoption to be more difficult for middle-income families; but I don’t want to help you.

Still hibernating, and not actually as grouchy as this update makes me sound.