Open Adoption Roundtable #42

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 share 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.

This latest writing prompt came from a reader suggestion. Adoptive parent Michelle faced some complicated emotions when she told her daughter’s birth mother about an injury her daughter experienced, feeling that she was entrusted with the care of this child and she had failed in some way. She wanted to hear from others about their feelings when something like that happens.

Think about a time when your child has been injured or sick (or for adoptees, when you have been injured or sick). Did adoption change or complicate that experience at all? Did you share it with others in your adoption constellation?  You might write about an actual experience you have had or think about what you ideally would want to have happen.

At our summer visit of 2010, when I was visibly pregnant with Joey, Ruth said to me casually: “Oh, by the way, when Cricket was a baby, we thought he had neurological problems because of this little shudder he used to make when he was falling asleep. We spent months worrying about this and thousands of dollars on medical tests, but it all turned out to be nothing—so if Joey does something like that, it’s probably nothing.” That’s when I found out that if there was s serious illness or injury in Cricket’s life, I should not expect his moms to let me know. Indeed, so far as I’ve been told, he has never in his life been sick or hurt at all. Doesn’t seem particularly likely, does it?

Maybe I go too far the other way. I recently set up a blog just for Cricket (and necessarily Ruth) that I use to talk about how we’re doing and put up pictures of his brothers. You know, “Dear Cricket, today the boys are still getting over that flu: booger-y but not particularly distressed” and so on. I wish that I could know more about Cricket’s life and experiences, but seeing as I don’t even know what he likes, we’re a long way from my knowing when he’s under the weather or getting stitches or Lord knows what. But that one conversation, letting me know how much I wasn’t told just this one time, told me that I can’t trust Ruth or Nora to let me know if anything happens.

The last time I talked to Ruth, after asking how she’s doing and talking about that for a bit, I tried to steer the conversation (gently!) toward talking about the kids—and then she left, making this perhaps the shortest conversation we’ve ever had. Ruth doesn’t want to talk about Cricket, at least to me. Of course I worry that that means something is wrong . . . but if nothing is wrong or if something is wrong, I just want to know. I can natter endlessly about Joey and Kit, whom I tend to refer to collectively as “the buddies,” but I know that not every parent feels the same way. Is Ruth as reluctant to tell Cricket stories to her friends or his grandparents? There’s no way for me to know.

 

I wish that I knew more about Cricket’s days, whether spent in sickness or in health—but anyone who reads this blog knows that. I wish that I could call Ruth like I can my sisters and just chat about how things are going. But here we are.

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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.

Open Adoption Roundtable #16

I found a version of this prompt in a set of questions written by a social worker for parents in open adoptions. As always, feel free to adapt it to your personal situation; if you grew up in an open adoption, you could look back on your actual experience.

Imagine your child as an adult describing their open adoption experience. What do you hope they will be able to say about you? How did you view their other parents? In what ways did you support their relationship with them?

One note: I deliberately avoided asking you to imagine how your grown child feels about their open adoption experience. Adoptees of all ages regularly report having more than enough people (i.e., any) telling them how they should feel about adoption. This is an exercise in thinking about our actions and choices from another’s perspective.

This past weekend, I was at a restaurant with my parents when I heard an older woman interrupt the young man she was with to ask “And which mom is this?” He replied, “My birth mom.” I liked that.

The only times that I’ve thought about teenage Cricket (the oldest I can really imagine him), I hope that when he gets really mad at me, he eventually gets over it. That’s really as far as I’ve gotten pre prompt. My husband and I talked last week about hoping that he’ll want to spend more time with us once he’s older (that is, more than an afternoon a few times a year—I don’t think we’re building up an unrealistic fantasy, but who knows). But I suppose this prompt is really more about examining my own actions and attitudes, which I’m always down for.

One of the only things stopping me from cancelling the upcoming visit is not wanting Cricket to look back and see broken promises from the birthparents. If he can say that we were always around when wanted, it will have been worth it. I hope he’ll say that we were what he wanted us to be. A nice lady at Catholic Charities asked me last week what I had imagined my relationship with him looking like before I placed him, and what I imagined now, and I said that honestly, I’m waiting for him to tell me; I don’t have much of an expectation, except that I expect some anger later on.

I hope Cricket will say that his bio siblings feel like his brothers and/or sisters. That’s one thing we’d planned for with Ruth and Nora that is coming to seem more and more implausible. I’d like to do what I can to make that connection more real for the kids, but I don’t really have any idea of how. When I was pregnant and I visited Ruth and Nora very late in the pregnancy, I spent some time with a little two-year-old girl, the daughter of a friend of theirs. She was just charming as all get-out, and fascinated by the pregnancy (after I left, she apparently told her mama that she had a baby in her stomach named Elizabeth)—I have  her in mind when I think of what Cricket will be like when I have the baby. If I want him to think of the little bird as his, how do I make that happen? He’s too little to see the kidlet born even if that wouldn’t be weird for many other reasons (I saw my little brother born, is what makes me think of it).

I’m going to give up on this prompt because it’s just sort of depressing; I don’t see that I can really make anything happen. I can only make things not happen.

Open Adoption Roundtable #15

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 part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list 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–feel free to adapt or expand on them.

The prompt for this round comes from the very dear mama2roo of Letters to a Birthmother:

Does money have an impact on your open adoption? If so, how? (Could be issues pre- or post-placement, expectations, assumptions, costs of visit activities, travel, gifts–you name it.)

Yes. Ruth had proposed a meet-up on May 8, and while I had a few reasons for wanting to reschedule, among them is the fact that we simply can’t afford to travel right now—for the last week and a half, we’ve had $20 to spend on groceries or any emergencies. Luckily, we avoided having an emergency, and I’m a dab hand at beans and rice.

When we drive to the Emerald City to see them, we use about a tank and a half of gas—call it $50—in addition to any other money that gets spent (Mr. Book usually wants to get himself breakfast at McD’s on the road, recently we’ve been going to a coffeehouse for a break in the middle of the vist, etc.). When they come to see us, we take them out for one meal and I cook one meal, often something more elaborate/expensive than I would have made for just the two of us. There’s no way we could manage either one of those today, and although things will be all better by June (I hope I hope), I don’t know whether we’d be able to feed company in early May. I can’t talk to Ruth about this stuff; I don’t want her to feel as though we’re begging for help, which we’re not, and I also find it a bit embarrassing. (We haven’t been irresponsible; I just haven’t been able to find work.)

Last year, Ruth offered to give us gas cards for visits, if we needed, and I don’t think I’d ever be able to accept them. It’s funny—I’m one of those birthmoms who did get some financial assistance from the PAPs while I was pregnant, which I know is controversial—they paid for medical expenses that weren’t covered by MediCal and bought me some maternity clothes. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me; these were expenses I wouldn’t have if I weren’t pregnant, and things they would probably have to pay for themselves if they were expecting a biokid. But I think that experience has made me extra averse to ever getting any financial assistance from them of any kind now that Cricket is born and placed. They weren’t “buying a baby,” but of course that money cemented in my head that the unborn child was their kid and that there was no way I could keep him. The secret added complication is of course that I am pregnant right now; if I take money from them while pregnant, gosh, hang on a second, I know how this one goes and no thank you I mean thank you but no thank you.

I don’t mean to imply that Ruth and Nora ever did or ever would think that giving me a maternity dress or filling our car with gas buys them anything, and in fact I think they would be horrified by the suggestion.

In a way, I think that this is all related to my crazy hope chest. Needing help to pay my medical bills and not being able to buy baby things last time ‘round seemed like proof that I couldn’t be a mother. But now I have blankets, I have burp clothes, I have tiny outfits. There are other things that we need (and don’t for a minute think that it doesn’t fReAk me oUt to make a list of the things we should hopefully acquire in the next seven months), but if we bought a pack of diapers, we’d be able to fake it for at least a couple of weeks. It’s going to be hard, parenting with not a lot of money, but I’m finally at a point where I believe that we can be good parents and impoverished parents at the same time. I’ve set up a couple of registries and will hope that my parents get enthusiastic about shopping for junior, but we’ll scrape by either way. I would like to get a dresser that we can also use as a changing table, but we can always put baby clothes in a cardboard box and change diapers on the floor. It would be nice to have a crib, but that’s really unlikely, so we’ll do without.

Money really does affect our open adoption—right down to being a primary cause of its existence.

Open Adoption Roundtable #13

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 part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list 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.


We often hear about open adoptions where the two sides don’t want the same level of openness. First mothers who don’t get updates as often as they would like, or not as many visits each year. Or adoptive parents who want to include their child’s first mother in his life, but she is not ready.

But what we don’t often discuss is when people on the same side of the triad can’t agree on the level of openness in an adoption.

  • It could be a wife who wants a fully open adoption but the husband only wants to send letters once a year.
  • Or a first mother isn’t ready for an open adoption but the first father wants to be part of the baby’s life.
  • Maybe a spouse isn’t supportive of their partner entering into reunion with their first mother.
  • Or a partner who came along after the adoption and isn’t comfortable with your relationship with your placed child.
  • And the classic Hallmark movie of the year scenario: Your mother-in-law is convinced that the baby will be snatched away from under your nose if you have an open adoption.

How would/do you navigate these situations? Does your current relationship impact the type of open adoption that you have? How does this affect your current relationship?

The last time I talked to my mother, she was telling me that the missionary friends who had just visited ended up looking at my wedding pictures—many of which include Cricket. There is a whole series of me holding this baby, and then some shots of this baby with two other women, and my mom said that they were friends and this was those friends’ child. I’m not sure how it happened, but I have become her adoption confessor: whenever she lies about the adoption, she comes to me for absolution. Every time I forward a couple of pictures on to her, she tells me that it makes her both happy and sad to see them—but that I shouldn’t stop sending them.

Mr. Book’s family has a less conflicted attitude: they think that we shouldn’t have done the adoption, they tell him that being able to make that decision makes us bad people, and they have decided to pretend that Cricket is dead. They strongly disapprove of us having any contact with the kid. I sent a picture of newborn Cricket to Mr. Book’s mother before this policy had been officially instituted, and she hasn’t spoken to me since—the adoption has effectively ended my relationship with that side of the family.

Those pictures I put up yesterday? Mr. Book hasn’t seen them yet. He got them when I did, and by now I have ordered prints, received them, and put them into the Cricket photo album—and my husband still hasn’t seen them. I asked if he wanted to look at them with me the other night, and he got slightly angry at me, asked me not to pressure him. I won’t bring it up again for awhile…but he’s never looked at any of the pictures unless I was beckoning him over to the computer, asking him if he’d be willing to see.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one on our end who wants to do anything related to the adoption. Sometimes, honestly, it feels like too much. But when I’m genuinely getting overwhelmed, Mr. Book steps up: Nora just had a birthday, and I handed him a card and asked him to write it. He wrote something charming, stuck it in the mail, and it just wasn’t my problem—such a relief. I had assumed that I would need to address, stamp, and mail it, and I know it sounds tiny, but he did all that and I don’t have to worry about it.

Open Adoption Roundtable #12

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 part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list 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.

Call them resolutions, commitments, changes, or choices–how will you be proactive in the area of open adoption in 2010?

1. I will find a new model for our relationship with Ruth and Nora: not marriage, not friendship, but something else. I will take into account their wishes and my experiences, and rely less on my hopes.

2. I will, with the aid of Mr. Book, figure out how we want to handle the pregnancy we hope for later this year and the baby who will follow in the context of the open adoption. What will our boundaries be? What are our hopes for the relationship between futurekid and Cricket? What are our obligations to Ruth and Nora?

3. I will make very sure that I am not looking at futurekid as a replacement for my lost son—the one who isn’t Cricket, but who Cricket would have been. That potential child is gone forever; I need to be very clear about that before I name another baby.

4. I will be supportive of other people in adoption relationships on whatever side; the adoption blogger community has been very kind to me, and I want to give back.

5. I will make our home ready for a baby; I don’t just mean washing onesies. I will be sure that Mr. Book and I are as prepared as anyone can be—he’s going to need to read some baby books, I am going to need to pray, and we’ll do a lot of talking together. At the same time, I will not let myself obsess until I am actually pregnant: no crying when I see pregnant women or babies, no setting up a nursery, no imaging the hoped-for child. I will be present in my life.

6. I will be for Cricket what he wants, or what I think he wants: available, warm, and unobtrusive.