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. 

The Great Interview Experiment

I’m participating in The Great Interview Experiment, and to my delight, I am interviewing the lovely and amazing Thanksgivingmom!

If you found out you were pregnant today, what would you do?

Parent, parent, parent, parent, parent.

I always said after I placed Cupcake that I would not place my next child for adoption. It’s too much. Too hard. Too emotional. It often feels overwhelming being in just one open adoption….worrying about birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, potential visit dates. And I know I couldn’t handle two open adoptions. Some might say, “well, another adoption wouldn’t have to be an open adoption,” to which I would respond: “Yes it does. And it would be legally binding.”

Anyway….where was I? Oh yes, I would parent.

That wasn’t always my answer though. There have absolutely been times post Cupcake’s placement where my answer would be “Parent or have an abortion.” But today? Today I’m in a good relationship (albeit a quasi long distance one) with a good man that would make a great Father.

Plus, we’ve already picked out baby names, but that’s another story!

Under what circumstances do you tell people about Cupcake? When people ask if you have any kids, when you have to fill out forms at the doctor’s office, when some asks what you’re doing on a visit weekend–what do you say?

I don’t.

Well, in most cases I don’t. Right after Cupcake was born I was driving up to LA to the fost adopt agency office. I went to the gas station on my way home and I had a picture of Cupcake in my hands while I was waiting for my tank to fill. A homeless man came up and asked me for some money. I didn’t have any. He commented on the picture in my hands – asked who that beautiful little baby was. Without thinking I told him she was my daughter. He said, “Where is she?” I said, “With her other Mom. She’s adopted.” He gave a knowing nod and said he was sorry and went on his way.

After that? I didn’t tell anyone not directly related to adoption for a long, long, time.

When people ask if I have kids I generally answer with some sort of non-committal answer like, “Do I look like I have kids?” or “Don’t you need a boyfriend or something to have kids?” But I never just say, “Yes, I have this amazing daughter who is awesome and beautiful and I call her Cupcake and I placed her for adoption.” Maybe someday….today I’m just not ready.

As for what I’m doing on a weekend when I have a visit? That is completely complicated since my Mom is the queen of being nosy. The good (?) news is that visits are generally only 2 or 3 hours so it’s not like I have to account for a lot of time….sometimes I either “had my phone off cause I was taking a nap” or “have some errands to run” or “went to go see a movie this afternoon.” If visits were longer that part might be more complicated….but they’re not, so it’s not.

(Oh, and doctors visits? Didn’t mean to ignore that, but I have a WHOLE post about that….bleh! – But feel free to link to it: http://thanksgivingmom.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/the-new-lady-dr/)

What do you think is the single most important issue in adoption reform right now?

Wow. This is a crazy hard question and I think I’ll probably save this one to tackle on the blog…..(open records!)

What does it feel like when you think about your daughter?

God….depends on the day. Sometimes it feels awesome. I was reading a book the other day and the main character was looking at her sister’s baby and was just overwhelmed by her sister thinking, “She made that person” and marveling over that achievement. Some days? It feels like that. Like it’s the coolest thing I will ever do and I can just cherish it.

Other days? It hurts to much to even think about that part of it. I think of how much I miss her, how I wonder what she’s doing, how much she’s grown, what she likes this week, and how much of that little personality is like mine.

I (secretly?) hope that she’s a lot like me. And when I think about her I find myself spending a lot of time focused on that – on our potential similarities.

And then I kinda wonder if she’s gonna give her Mom hell like I did!

What is the hardest thing about writing your blog?

Sometimes it’s figuring out what in the hell I’m trying to say and how the heck I’m supposed to say it without offending anyone or hurting anyone’s feelings. I’ve found that speaking honestly about adoption can be like a minefield and you need to tread very carefully. Always tossing out disclaimers, clarifying that something is based solely on my experiences or that what I’m saying pertains to one specific thing and isn’t meant to be a blanket statement about any given situation or side of the triad.

But I also think that’s a really important thing about writing my blog. Because if I don’t respect other people’s needs, wishes and sensitivities, I’ll be shutting people out – and I don’t think that helps carry this conversation either.

Tell me something you love about Cupcake!

What don’t I love about that girl??? I love her attitude. She’s so dang spunky already. She’s got this look that can call you on your bs and she’s full of energy and enthusiasm, but she can also be very sweet and quiet.

And I know everyone thinks this about their kid, but Cupcake? Is smart.

I realize that in writing this these answers are pretty…..well, standard. But the truth is, I don’t know enough about Cupcake to have some long involved answer. What I do know is that we have a great time when we’re together. I know that she’s curious and intelligent and funny…..and I think she knows that I’m her first Mom even though she’s never been told that specifically.

How does your status as a firstmom affect your conversations with people from different sides of the adoption triad?

Hmm….I need to think on this one……but it’s good bloggy inspiration!

What would your ideal visit look like?

Oooh, this one’s long, complicated, and probably involves some backstory….so I think I’ll save this one for the blog too if you don’t mind.

Do you do anything to honor your daughter on her birthday: bake a cake, light a candle, write letters to save?

Nope. I would like to say that I do, but it just doesn’t happen that way. The first year I can’t hardly remember. But it was around Thanksgiving again, and that’s just too much to deal with. The second year I distracted myself by going to an NFL game (my team won, thank you!) This year I spent the evening at my brother Ram’s house watching Monday night football and being with family.

I know that my daughter’s birthday should be about her. And if I were ever to be invited to join in any kind of birthday celebrating I would push my needs aside and make it about her. But for now? I need to do what’s going to get me through the day. And right now that doesn’t include cakes, candles, or letters. I’m just not there.

When you hear from a pregnant woman planning on adoption (on the internet or in real life), what do you tell her? What do you want to tell her?

This is gonna be another long one……

Do you have plans to raise children one day, or do you plan not to?

Oh yes, I absolutely do! I love, love, love, love children and, if it’s okay for me to say? I think I’m DANG good with them too! I know I’ve got some cyberfriends that would back me up there since I’ve spent time with their kidlets!

What one thing would you change about your open adoption relationship?

Can I change maybe two things?

Pretty please?

I would kill for some kind of a schedule! I would like to know that I’ll get updates in January, April, July, and October or something – with two visits, one near her birthday and one in late spring/early summer for instance. I would like to know that so that I didn’t hold my breath the tiniest bit every single time I opened my email. I would also like it so that in February, if I hadn’t gotten the update, I could feel like I was allowed to be irritated. Or that I could say, “hey Dee, I’m sure things are busy in the New Year, but I can’t wait for the January update!” I’ve tried to set this up but to no avail…..so until then, I guess I just hold my breath and hope.

The other thing I would like to change is the one-sidedness. I feel like I’m always the one to initiate emails, to ask for visits, and make the first move. Once I would like to feel like I was wanted as much as they are. Once I would like to feel that I’m not the only one pushing for openness, but that it’s really something that we’re all in together. Because the thing is, it hasn’t been “hard” yet – not in the “traditional” hard ways that can close adoptions! Cupcake doesn’t act out after visits, she’s not confused or asking questions, she’s not the kid in class that’s “different” because she’s being raised by a single gay Mom and is in an open adoption with her first Mom that used Safe Haven laws. Cause yeah, that might seem complicated….and the thing that’s easiest to fix is to cut out that whole first Mom business. So if we’re not working as a team now? When it’s “easy” – it just really scares me to think of what tomorrow will look like.

Tell me something you love about Long Board and haven’t mentioned yet on your blog.

I swear, I’ve been staring at this question for ages….because I think I shoot myself in the foot by talking about him too much and not saving stuff for here, haha! But there’s a lot I really dig about the kid. But (and he’d kill me for talking about this) I LOVE that he’s all macho and anti public displays of affection until we get home and then he’s the world’s biggest cuddlebug – and not in an annoying “get off of me!” kind of a way. Just that if we’re laying in bed reading, he’d rather toss a leg over so that it touches mine. Or watching TV he’ll pull my legs over his lap as he sits and I get to lounge out on the couch. And when we watched Paranormal Activity (which reminds me – I also love that while he’s totally macho he’s also TERRIFIED during scary movies) he commented on the fact that the couple slept so far away from each other. He thought that was sad. And I think it’s cute. Cute that six months in he still wants to fall asleep close to me and imagines it always being that way.

Oooh! And I just came up with another thing, but that’s a bit longer so I’ll just blog about it instead 🙂

You heard the lady, folks; hustle over to her blog to learn more!