The Unnumbered Questions

Well, O Solo Mama put up some questions about open adoption, and I’m one of the people taking a swing—I’m trying out the questions that came before the list, however. I addressed a couple of the others over on Dawn‘s blog, but it turns out I wasn’t quite finished.

No seriously, how do you watch your child being parented by someone other than yourself? Do you take some kind of pill every day? Or do you grieve for a long time, so long, even, that it impairs your relationship with your child or with your subsequent chidren? And then who helps you?

My first impulse is to ask a question in response: Why would closed adoption be easier? Yeah, being a birthparent is hard, and you grieve. But not knowing whether he was alive or dead—that’s not an improvement. I don’t, at least so far, have trouble hearing my son call his moms “Mama” or “Abba”; I was pretty clear on the fact that placing him meant that he was going to call someone else mama. If you place a child for adoption, someone else will be the parent to your kid. Period. Maybe a closed adoption lets you imagine that the child is pining for you always, or thinks of you as his or her “real mom,” or that the child died and that you have no hostage to fortune out there in the world, but I just can’t bring myself to put “birthparents (or adoptive parents, for that matter) can more easily lie to themselves” in the “pro” column for closed adoptions.

Technically I suppose I can’t tell you whether the placement/openness/existence of a Cricket has impaired my relationship with Joey, because I only have this relationship with him; I don’t know what that theoretical, sans adoption motherhood looks like, and never can. But I’m completely in love with Joey, and he seems to be thriving. Here’s a funny thing: one of the reasons that I placed Cricket is that I wanted him to be a longed-for child—I want that for every kid, and since he was born of a crisis pregnancy, I didn’t think that we could give that to him. But the loss of him has made Joey especially longed for, not just by me and his dad but (it turns out) by all grandparents and aunts and uncles and great-aunts and -uncles. This adoration doesn’t, so far as I can tell, have any creepy hint of “replacement child” about it—it’s just that now we’ve all in a sense been waiting for this boy for years, and he’s here, and everyone loves him. If I try to set him down for a nap and five minutes later need to pick him up because just not being held is enough to wake him up, it’s a little frustrating, sure—but it feels so good to hold him, even when I really need to get work done, even if I really have to go to the bathroom.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving for Cricket—I imagine that will go on and on. But shoot, my husband still grieves for his father, who died five years ago; that doesn’t stop him having full and loving relationships now. Grief is. It doesn’t kill you. And again, I don’t imagine that the grief is necessarily any less when you don’t know your placed child’s name.

So who helps me? Well, I talk to my husband and to a counselor; I do some brain work on my own. I have to think that I’d be doing those same things if we were in a closed adoption. And I’m living my life and feeling blessed, so something must be working. I didn’t have any trouble bonding to Joey, and while I do of course think about Cricket and miss him, it isn’t poisoning my parenting or anything like. I wish our adoption was more open, in fact.

14 thoughts on “The Unnumbered Questions

  1. I really like the things you say Susie. Your writing is so honest and you don’t pull any punches. I just always find it enlightening to read your posts/thoughts and I’m so glad I ever stumbled upon your blog. You’ll never know how much some of the things you say help me.

    Thanks for being you.

  2. love this answer! I also read the Qs thinking “why would a closed adoption be any easier?” it’s not like out of sight = out of mind. so glad you chimed in!

    and you know, I still grieve for my dad who died 25 years ago when I was 16, and my nana, who’s been gone nearly 12 years. “grief is” indeed. it evolves over time, but it just becomes a part of who you are.

  3. Pingback: answering some questions, part one (edited to add links) « life from here: musings from the edge

  4. What a beautiful post. I think that Cricket will grow up knowing he’ll always have his first parents’ lasting love, and hopefully he’ll get increasingly more time with you guys. Your words about grief were really moving.

    And it’s awesome how much love there is for Joey. In addition to having adoring parents, it’s so nice how his grandparents and his godparents have already come to visit him. I bet Joey’s baptism may be SRO.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I know you truly love both your sons, and that I come here with a lot of my own baggage.

    I also came from a crisis pregnancy, and for my aparents, I am the “longed-for child.” But being a “longed-for child” for others doesn’t mend the loss I felt all those years. What has been most healing for me is building–very slowly–a relationship with my first mother. We have spoken only on the phone, and only five times in my life, starting last September. Having her acknowledge me as her child, even if she says it’s more than she can handle to delve any deeper into her feelings about it, meant the world to me.

    Each child gets here in his or her own way, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that a child from an unplanned or crisis pregnancy would necessarily be loved any less by his or her parents if kept. As I said in a comment to an earlier post, I think many people try to separate the adopted child from the circumstances of adoption. For some this works. For others, not so much. We *are* the situation, or the situation is read into us by our first families and adoptive families. I do hope that your parents are doing better not calling Joey the “first grandchild.” Is he? Really? If so, then poor Cricket.

    I am jealous, deeply jealous, of children like Joey who are born where they get to stay, with their loving parents. Good for him.

  6. I just love reading your blog. You are so real. I was so happy when you finally had Joey. I love your comment about how since you placed a child for adoption, it made you appreciate your new arrival even more. How true.

    I believe that the pain and grief I experience from knowing that I have a child who I willing relinquished to the care of another mother (and father), has made me appreciate even more the children I do have.

    And my adoption story is opposite of yours. I had other children first, and placed a child in an adoption after I was “done” having kids. I experienced a later-in-life unplanned pregnancy (how does that happen?…). But the feelings toward adoption, the conflict in my heart and the longing for the child no longer with me are the same.

    However, the experience of adoption has increased my gratitude for the children I do parent. As a matter of fact, it has made me a better mother and her birth father is also a better father to his children too.

    So there you have it. One of the benefits of adoption. Appreciation for the children we do get to parent.

    • Indeed. Adoption teaches us a great deal.

      For me, the silver lining–if you can call it that–was NOT being raised by my first family. My circumstances traded alcoholism and coldness for the unconditional love of my aparents. Better to be away from people who think less of you for the reasons you were born.

      Adoption is the reason why I couldn’t place when I had a crisis pregnancy, and why I have enormous appreciation for the two children I am raising.

      • Oh I don’t know, how do you quantify matters of the human heart?

        I would say though, that time passing tends to calcify rather than soften, at least in my experience. I was much more malleable in early reunion and am much pricklier now, and there are some places I am simply unwilling to go—like my mother’s home.

        I was a kinder person before the grief hardened in me like a tiny stone. I have seen it in others, you can see it even in pictures of me. I am much more apathetic to both my self and others now. I have less compassion and less guilt. It is weird.

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