Ruth and Nora have bought us train tickets to go visit them this weekend. Moments like these give me some perspective into the mix of good intentions and concern that drive their end of this relationship; they reach out and pull back, and it’s hard for me to read the motivations behind the movement.

Before committing to an overnight visit (our first, kind of a big deal), Ruth wanted to talk on the phone: I abruptly put it together mid-conversation that she had been asking (via email) “Are you going to be okay?” and I was saying “I think Joey will do just fine.” This happened a few times. I was thinking about naps and car seats and it hadn’t even crossed my mind that my skittishness around Cricket might be even worse at his house with no real option to get away. Ruth also mentioned that an overnight visit was a big step, and not one that we were taking because it felt right, but for circumstantial reasons: this is reasonable, and my feelings were (unreasonably) hurt. Rationally, I know that the fact that we’ve been “good” is the reason that they are willing to let circumstances push them into an overnight visit: irrationally, I want Ruth to say that they feel like it’s time anyway, because of how awesome we are.

With the move and the visit both, I am focused on details rather than the big picture. I am ruthlessly culling the bookshelves; I am wondering how many outfits to pack for Mr. Snerks. I am cleaning out closets and deciding whether to bring the stroller. I took a moment last night to try to get a look at the long term: I asked Mr. Book, “Looking at the next few years, what are you hopeful about?”

He couldn’t come up with anything. He’s caught between moments of joy (No more terrible job! Infinitely more time with his family!) and crushing shame and despair. The Mister told me that I will have to be his sense of perspective during the transition, so I came up with my own list:

I’m hopeful about Joey getting to really feel that his grandparents are part of his family, something I’ve never had.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to maintain a good relationship with my mother even while living together.

I’m hopeful that Mr. Book will make it through law school and thrive there.

I’m hopeful about having a sibling for the Snerks and people to help with the baby.

I’m hopeful about the impressive kitchen and grocery budget I’ll be working with to feed the family.

I’m hopeful that we’ll come back to Stumptown like music video rock stars, climbing out of the limo in slow motion, wearing shades and poofy coats.

Partway through my recitation (as I rolled out pretzels, standing in the kitchen and thinking), Mr. Book began to cry.

We’re in a strange time—a few weeks that feel timeless—and I’m trying, now, to take a good look at what is ahead of and behind us. Mr. Book keeps saying that we tried to make a go of it here and failed, and I keep reframing it: You know how we never so much as visited Stumptown before deciding to move here? Well, friend, this was our scouting mission. It ran a little long, but I think we’ve really gotten a feel for the place, and now when we move here in four or five years, we’ll be supremely well prepared.

Trying to get some perspective on the adoption is less encouraging: We’re not as close as we’d hoped, we don’t see Cricket very often, and that is only going to get worse. On the other hand, he is doing well, and his moms have turned out to be excellent parents: thank God. Cricket has a brother now, and will most likely have another couple of siblings arriving over the next couple of years: one local and one long-distance. In the meantime, Ruth has said that as long as I can guarantee that my parents won’t be in the house at the time, we can Skype.

Unrelatedly (but inseparably), Joey is growing like a weed. For some time now he has been able to sign “all done” (most frantically and plaintively when I am trying to get his pajamas on: <all done> <all done> <all done>, over and over)—now he has started signing “nurse,” although he uses the two signs to mean <want> and <not want>. It’s deeply odd to be able to communicate with him this way; my tiny son starting at my glass of water and saying <want> or trying to escape a diaper change with <not want>. He is sleeping in the crib, now, after moving from rolling out of bed accidentally to crawling out of bed deliberately, rolling onto the crib mattress or pile of pillows, and then scooting away to have adventures. No bed rail could contain him. =/ I miss him, but the adjustment was quick and pretty painless. All three of us are sleeping better.

Open Adoption Roundtable #28

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.

This round is a smidge different–time for some cross-blog pollination! Lori of Write Mind Open Heart, an adoptive parent in two open adoptions, has up at her blog a set of eleven questions about open adoption which were posed to her by JoAnne, an adult adoptee in a closed adoption. There are some great questions there about the role adoption professionals played arranging contact in your adoptions and how you understand the legal weight of any open adoption agreements you may have.

1. Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?

Yes, of course. I cannot tell you how many times I have read condescending explanations to the tune of:

If you wanted to have contact/a relationship/some idea of whether your placed child is alive or dead, you shouldn’t have placed that child for adoption.

I don’t think people smugging it up about ~*~real ~*~parenthood on the internet are the only ones who feel that way, either. Heck, I listen to an adoption/infertility podcast every week, and on the last episode, a social worker who does adoptions said that she thinks legally binding open adoption agreements are a bad idea because adoptive parents need to be able to be the real parents. I don’t quite understand the mindset that agreeing to a visit once a year (in our case) stops people from doing more or less whatever they want to their children, but I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one.

On the other hand: I have a friend who placed a child for adoption only to have the adoptive parents promptly move across state lines and close the adoption. Her son is now in middle school, and my friend has found his older sister on Facebook. I think it’s getting less and less possible to hide yourself and your family forever; while adoptive parents can do whatever they please, the reality is that their kids may very well use available tech to look for birth family without any guidance or help from their parents.

I should also say that in our adoption, which I think is a pretty functional one, the adoptive parents don’t meet the terms of the agreement. (In our agreement, we birth parents are only “permitted” and not obligated to do anything—but we do that which is permitted.)

2. Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?

In our case, the agency used by the adoptive parents counsels them, but we had very little guidance or mediation for the four of us during the process and have had none since placement.

 

5. Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?

I don’t believe so.

 

6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?

Well . . . nothing. I mean, theoretically we could take them to court, but I don’t think that most birth parents have the resources to hire a lawyer etc. It’s hard for me to imagine that that process would make it easier to have a relationship. And I don’t know of any agreement that has actually been legally tested, so they may all end up not being binding after all. In practice, if things really broke down for the adoptive parents, they would I believe go to their agency for help—we (the birth parents) don’t have access to agency support, and would probably just keep trying to contact them every so often but otherwise give up.

7. What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?

Manners? Rational self-interest? Not being a paint-huffing crazy lady? I mean, maybe I should turn this one around: What stops the adoptive parents from coming to my house unannounced? Well, that would be rude and destructive to the relationship, and it’s hard to imagine it going over very well. We just aren’t that close. Heck, I wouldn’t turn up at my sister’s house without checking in with her.

The assumption that birth parents have no boundaries is pretty insulting. I’m participating in a study tracking birth parents, adoptive parents, and placed kids, and every time they interview me, I get asked literally dozens of questions like: What was the last time that your actions got you in legal trouble? What is the last time that you started a fire? What is the last time that you used illegal drugs? Does your use of illegal drugs prevent you from doing the things you want to do? (Never, never, never, and did you not notice the never? for the curious.) The birth parents I know are living their lives and missing their kids. When I really, badly miss Cricket and wish I could see him, I feel sad; I write on the blog; sometimes I bake.

8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?

I don’t think there are, but I’m interested to see what will happen.

9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?

Not that I know of. I think that those who oppose open adoption can simply opt out.

10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?

Well, as to the first question, that’s something that his moms will decide. I will say that if Ruth emailed me tomorrow and said that Cricket said he doesn’t want to have a visit, I would ask whether we could see whether he feels differently in six months—in the meantime, of course, we would be willing to not send him cards or gifts. I would probably keep exchanging emails with Ruth, but we have an independent relationship that I don’t think it would be appropriate for him to control. (Cricket is two and a half, by the way.) If he wants to cut off contact with us, we will accept that; we’d grieve, and we’d hope for an eventual change of heart, but I’d never want to force a relationship on him. At the same time, if his moms agreed, I might ask whether we could keep on sending cards for him to them that they could save and give to him if he ever wanted that.

11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?

Open Adoption Support is a good one—beyond that, I’ve gotten good and kind information just by emailing bloggers.

Open Adoption Roundtable #27

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 back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and link to your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is 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.

I’m still thinking quite a bit about memories and the different ways we preserve them for the generations following us. I thought we’d try a memory-oriented prompt for this round. Feel free to interpret “first meeting” and make a connection to your adoption experience however you’d like.

Write about a first meeting.

Cricket was nearly six months old when I saw him with his moms for the first time since signing the adoption paperwork. He and his moms had come down for our wedding, but we decided that it might be wise to meet them—and let them meet my family—the day before. I spent the morning making an elaborate picnic lunch. When Mr. Book and I met the three of them at a park, Cricket was napping in his travel system; we were both a little surprised by how hard they worked to keep him asleep, rolling him in small, endless circles. Ruth and Nora were incredibly nervous. They seemed so obviously to be waiting for us to do something crazy that Mr. Book and I ended up feeling pretty detached from what was going on—we were careful to be noisily respectful of their parenthood, which eventually helped them to relax.

After lunch, the five of us went back to my parents’ house; my mother had met Cricket on the day he was born, but my sisters and father had never met him. None of them had met or spoken to Ruth or Nora. As soon as we stepped through the door, my mom grabbed Cricket—this was the first of a few weird moments with her, and I kept carefully correcting her. She referred to “Mommy” while clearly meaning me, and I pointed at Ruth; she offered to let someone else hold him, and I told her that she needed to consult with his mother before handing him around. It was awkward, but there were no major fireworks.

After the meeting, the Mister and I talked about how disappointed we were, although I don’t know that we ever used that word. “Wow, they sure thought we were going to do something crazy.” We sounded cynical; we were hurt. We had done what we were supposed to, however, and they were less anxious with us for the next couple of days.

I’m going to post some pictures of that visit next. If you’d like the password, just email and tell me who you are. If you have and I didn’t respond, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! I may have missed the email or just meant to write something thoughtful and failed to do so in a timely fashion.

Thanks

Thank you, everyone who commented on that last postlette; I am less panicky now, but our situation is the same. If Mr. Book receives some kind of excellent job offer in the next two weeks, we stay—if not, two weeks later we will beat feet to the Southland. At this point, I am preparing for the move and the Mister is hoping that we don’t have to make it.

Ruth wrote back very quickly after I told her that we were planning a move, which I greatly appreciate. She says that it seems quite unlikely that we’ll see them before the move, but that they should be able to come to us once a year—that in fact she and Nora had been talking about only visiting once a year anyway, so this might not make a difference. It’s an odd feeling, to be reassured in such an unreassuring way. Still, it was nice to hear that they’re still planning to follow our agreement (which calls for them to travel to us once a year for a visit). And since we saw them twice last year (and it looks like the same this year), I suppose once isn’t so much less than that.

I dislike the idea that the birth family is supposed to “move on” a year or two after placement; to me, it goes along with an assumption that they will stop thinking of the placed child as family and that the adoption will quietly close (or go semi-open, just in case someone needs medical information or similar). And yet we are doing some of the things that I think look like hallmarks of moving on; we had and are parenting another child, and now we’re moving away. We’re not moving on, if you wondered—we still think about Cricket every day, we still wish he was with us. And I feel pretty guilty about moving away from him.

Tuesday afternoon, I had my first panic attack in a long while. I hate not knowing what’s going to happen. I told this to Mr. Book, and he said that we more or less know—sure, there could come some bolt from the blue, but barring a minor miracle we will be in my Homeland a month from now. In the meantime, I’m jumpy and nervous, and it’s affecting the baby’s sleep. It’s also weird to have Mr. Book around during the day—good, don’t get me wrong, but a bit odd. I find myself narrating my routine in a awfully self-conscious way. “Well, uh, this is when I soak the diapers, so I’m, uh, I’m just going to, uh. . . .”

Mr. Book quit his job last night. I’m ashamed to say that my reaction was less “Good for you!” than “Oh, no.” So we may be going south much sooner than we’d planned!

 

If you pray, or hold positive intentions, or make wishes, we could use good thoughts right now.