Janine Asks

Holy Crap is right. How are you feeling about it?

Let me lay out a timeline. Just over a week ago, I sent Ruth this email:

Last summer, I wrote and asked whether we could talk about how the adoption’s going, what you like and don’t like, things you’d like to change; you suggested that it wasn’t a good time because things were about to change. I suppose that’s still true. On the other hand, I think things are going to keep changing for as far into the future as I can see—both of our families are growing, we plan to move at some point—so I thought I’d see whether you might be willing to have the conversation.

I feel like there are a few areas where I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I stopped emailing because email no longer seemed like a good medium for you, and I was finding it discouraging to write and not hear back. You seem to prefer Facebook chat—but how often do you want to talk? I don’t feel right initiating several times in a row. It makes me feel like I’m bothering you (it’s clear that we want more contact than you do). And I’m happy to wait to hear from you, but I don’t know whether your ideal would be talking twice a month or twice a year, and I wish that I did. How about Skype? Would you like to talk once a month, once every three months, only around birthdays? —I’m not asking these questions in order to hold you to some kind of schedule, but so that I can adjust my own expectations and have some sense of what you think is reasonable. I’d also like you to clarify something that happened on Skype: Cricket asked me why we moved to California, and you jumped in and answered—and your answer was extremely nonspecific (“Sometimes people move”). If he asks me questions, what kinds do you prefer I not answer? I don’t want to violate any of your rules for him, but that instance caught me off guard. And if you have other things you’d like to share your thinking on, or hopes for, or what have you—I’d like to hear from you about them.

To my surprise, she wrote back quickly, saying that she wants more contact but that it just hasn’t been working out. I’m somewhat skeptical of this—after three years, I think we can tell how much contact you want based on how much you’ve reached out (very little)—but it’s a nice thing to say, and I spent a few days brooding over what this might mean for the future. She was positive and reassuring, but she hasn’t followed up with any attempts to chat or Skype or schedule anything, so I don’t know how much the email will really affect things.

And then, the day before Thanksgiving, I found out that they are matched.

Not from them, mind you: I check their agency website almost every business day, and Wednesday, they were gone. When they were matched with us, they didn’t get pulled from the website until pretty close to my due date, and I know that their agency prefers to match in the third trimester, so they may very well be getting a baby for Christmas. Now I’m trying to figure out whether Ruth’s email was just intended to make sure that we won’t contact the agency and make trouble for them. (Not that we ever have or would—even if things get quite bad, we don’t feel that we have any allies there.) I am angry, and I don’t need it pointed out to me how hypocritical that is: I am angry at them for hiding the fact that they are expecting even as I am hiding the fact that we are expecting. I feel like I have better reasons than they do, but of course I feel that way. I keep imagining ways to ask them fairly passively to see how many times she’ll lie to me. This is not healthy. I think about dramatically revealing everything: “I know you were angry to hear about my pregnancy last time, but perhaps the fact that you are matched right now will make this one easier for you.” Equally healthy, I know. I’m just fuming to myself (largely over little things, like: “They last said that they might visit in January; they might not visit at all next year now, and they should tell us”) and trying to figure out whether/when/why to reach out to them again at some point. I hate the idea that my anger might make them feel validated in not telling us—to be fair, I would not express it to them the way they did to us when they found out about Pete.

Part of my upset, too, is that I’m upset that they are adopting again; we have had a pretty unhappy experience in our relationship with Ruth and Nora, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else. (Too bad!) I know that it’s not something I have any kind of control over, and I shouldn’t have, but it’s still distressing to think about. Maybe they’ll wind up with someone who wants a closed adoption and it will be a much better match. I hope they don’t like this new child better; they sometimes seem not to like Cricket very much (although there is no question of their love). I know that can happen—my own parents very clearly like one of their children less than the others, while loving us all.

God, maybe I am having a parallel experience to theirs. This is empathy that I don’t want.

13 thoughts on “Janine Asks

  1. What a tough situation. I’m not even sure what to say because I’m so tangled up about it. I just wonder how they actually see themselves, their adoption, their openness, and of course that’s something I’ll never get to understand.

    • I’m with you on this one – not knowing that to say and really wondering how R&N see themselves in all of this. Thinking of you, Susiebook.

  2. That is a hard one. Hard for me to read because our situation is very similar to yours – us being the adoptive couple. (Though we are NOT the same as Ruth and Nora). I know our first child’s Birth/First mom probably felt the same as you when we adopted our second. We have a crappy relationship with her for a number of reasons – main one being that she’s extremely disrespectful and doesn’t acknowledge the adoption (she sees us as temporary guardians, not parents, etc.) Our second adoption turned out to be the magical one people talk about. Maybe we were just a better match than we were with our first Birth/First mom. And that makes me sad.
    No matter what though, communication has to happen in an open adoption. I think it’s great you are wanting to set expectations for yourself even though it’s not what you want. Not knowing the expectations can cause problems big time. Hang in there, maybe with this second child it’ll help them to feel more secure as parents and welcome you in more. I personally feel the questions you are asking them have to be answered. If it were me, I’d reply again and say something like “I know you are busy, but this is important.” or something along those lines. This isn’t something to be ignored. Little things can be, this isn’t little.

  3. Adoption is so hard. I am on the otherside of the fence however, as an adoptive parent. After telling our families that we had an addition to our family (we were not matched and found out a few hours before papers were signed), the next person we told was our DD birthmom. She came to visit our house within 24 hours of our DS coming home. Since then however its all turned. But thats another story. I think you are trying your very best to establish a relationship. I am sorry they are dropping the ball in terms of contact. Its not hard to answer emails, texts etc within a day or two. Heck I have a very sick child and I still manage to do it. I pray for you guys often and will continue to do so. Hope this Christmas may soften R & N hearts (((hugs)))

  4. Perhaps having a larger family will help mellow Nora and Ruth.

    One thing to consider might be that Ruth and Nora are not trying to intentionally hurt you, but instead they puzzle a bit to figure out what you may be thinking. People don’t all have the same ways of thinking about things. For example, in your recent post you expressed feelings of upset and discomfort about your mother sharing the happy news of your pregnancy with friends and relatives. Past the first trimester, it would never occur to me that anyone would be bothered by that. It seems like a normal, happy thing for a grandmother to do, particularly when her daughter lives with her. As a grandmother I would assume that sharing news my daughter considered to be happy – would be just that happy. It would not make sense to keep it secretive and to do so would imply something sad or shameful which seems like it would upset her more. But, clearly the way you felt about this was different, that doesn’t make it less valid but it may make it hard for other people to predict.

    Without a considerable bit more information that you have, it is impossible to know what Ruth and Nora are thinking. Perhaps they’ve told very few people about the pending adoption, perhaps they’ve learned to be cautious because your previous reactions show you can be highly emotional and may be difficult to predict, or perhaps they don’t think this moment is very much about you. At any rate, I don’t think you are doing yourself any favors to try imagine or create a story to explain what they must be feeling or thinking at this moment. I think you’d feel at more peace if you could stop yourself from reading in between the lines.

    I hope that for Cricket finds happiness as his family grows and that things get easier for all involved.

    • Do want to point out that I’ve never reacted in a way that shows me to be “highly emotional and may be difficult to predict” to Ruth and Nora. I save that for the blog and my personal brain space.

      • Susie,
        Again, people have really different personalities and communication styles. What feels like not highly emotional for one person may feel like way too distraught to deal with for another. Just to give another perspective, I personally would feel quite a few negative emotions if I received the email you posted. It reminds me of a boyfriend from college who always wanted to have serious talks about “the relationship.” I’m sure that would be a great match for somebody but it just made me feel like he was really high maintenance and like any single tiny thing I said or did might set him off into weeks of obsessively dissecting what I must have been thinking or feeling. I found that stressful and irritating to be around and it lead to me wanting to avoid communicating with him. I’m sure for some other gal out there it might have felt like a sign of real caring. He was a nice guy and I hope he found her!

        Obviously at this point you aren’t shopping for a relationship, but trying to make the best of the ones you have. I’m just suggesting in that process it may be good to be mindful that your happiness is in large measure going to be determined by how you think about this in your own head. Whenever you start adding layers of analyzing things they haven’t actually said, you are likely going to end up unhappy. It isn’t fair to them and it isn’t fair to you (and of course not to Cricket either). While not everything in this situation can be changed, this is something you could work on if you aren’t happy with it.

        Best of luck.

  5. I don’t know how meaningful it necessarily is that Ruth and Nora haven’t told you about their match. When we were matched with our son, we didn’t even tell our parents or siblings or many of our friends until he was already in our home. Some of them it was because we just didn’t involve them much in the day-to-day updates of the adoption process because they clearly weren’t interested or we’re just not that close to them, others because we didn’t want to have to deal with telling everyone it fell through if it ended up that we didn’t actually get the placement–that had already happened once. So, maybe they are just waiting and seeing what happens, or maybe they don’t think of you waiting with bated breath to see what happens since they told you they were adopting again and it won’t be a surprise.

    When you say that you feel like your reasons for not telling about your pregnancy are better than their reasons for not telling about their placement, what do you mean? I know my mom was never thrilled about me being pregnant (or adopting), but it never struck me that she was wrong to share the news with family and friends.

    • I mean that I feel justified not telling them about the pregnancy because last time, we told them, and they were awful. There hasn’t been a similar, mirrored experience. That said, I know that I’m not really being fair; I’m just upset and sort of chewing over why and how and what now.

  6. Sorry this is all so very hard. I agree you should try sending a follow up e-mail and in the mean time, try not to read between the lines too much. I think your reasons for not disclosing your pregnancy to them are perfectly justified, but I can also understand why they may not be comfortable disclosing a match right now too.

    I keep hoping something will change for the better in this relationship. I think your e-mail was thoughtfully worded and your efforts to reach out are commendable.

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