Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Open adoption and the man who makes mine bearable
The next day I received a phone call. It is the one and only phone call I have ever received from Brit's father, but I never want to forget it.
His voice was so very tender toward me. I was a complete disaster and he knew it. He handled what could have been a crazy emotional phone call with grace. I will never forget how even though the message he was delivering to me was difficult, and knowingly painful for me to hear, he approached me with love, honesty, tenderness and respect.
He gently explained to me that once they got Brit home, they began to realize how badly they wanted her to be "theirs". And while they never thought they would feel like this, they were struggling with feeling like they were raising Lisa's baby. He was very gentle with how he said that. He said "I know you are probably thinking, duh, that is my baby, what did you think you would be doing?"
He went on to explain how they had thought adoption would be easier for them than it had been. They had become very protective of Brit. Especially Brit's mom. He mentioned that they had come the realization that Brit may be the only child that they ever had and that was very tough for her mom to accept.
We had an extensive conversation about this and how pictures of me and the boys were hard for the mom because all she could see was how much Brit looked like us. She had stopped responding to my emails and instead had asked Brit's dad to take over because she no longer had the emotional reserves to do it.
Brit's dad and I talked for about 15 minutes and there are plenty of things I am sure were very important that I should share here, but I honestly don't want to dwell so much on the painful parts of that conversation. And I think my mind has helped me forget the exact words because so much of what was said was so traumatic to me at the time.
But I do remember clearly what Brit's dad said to me toward the end of our phone conversation. I had reminded him that when I was pregnant, Brit's mom had promised me we would always be friends and we would continue to stay connected because we had established such a great relationship. I never had a single doubt that would be true. We really had gotten to be friends. Then our relationship immediately ceased when the baby was buckled in their car seat at the hospital.
I explained to him how I was struggling with feeling misled - even if it wasn't intentional (which I didn't think then, and I am sure of today). I told him how hard it was to be close to someone and then never hear back from that person again after she took the baby home.
He was very empathetic. He assured me that it was never intentional. I recall part of his response to me was, "I prayed over and over that God would make my wife and me parents. And I didn't know how it was going to happen. But I would NEVER have been willing become a parent at the expense of our integrity. We would have never misled anyone just so we could become parents. We love you and have never meant to hurt you. We are so thankful for what you have provided for us."
We continued to talk about how they had never expected to feel like they did. And I shared that I never expected to feel how I did either. Both of us had very unrealistic views about how simple adoption would be. They thought they would bring home a perfect baby and they would go about their lives as if they had just given birth to her. And I thought that I would be able to carry on with my life as if everything was OK and I was fine with someone else parenting a child I had given birth to.
The reality of what adoption did to all of us was much more harsh than that. It changed all of us. Some things were for the good, and some brought out feelings that none of us would have ever thought we would ever possess.
When we had our first visit this weekend, I saw that same man whispering to Brit. While he is a monster of a man in size, his voice is gentle and comforting. His love for that little girl is more than apparent. He is a wonderful father to her and a doting husband to his wife. He possesses what few men can seem to grasp and he is able to be sensitive to the needs of all of the "girls" in his life. He comforts his wife as she adjusts to being an adoptive mother. He comforted me as I sobbed to him on the phone when my heart was hurting so badly. And he comforts his daughter, like a true father should.
Apparently all of the books that he has read about coaching girls (he is a HS girls basketball coach), have paid great dividends for all of the rest of us too.
So my closing thoughts.
Adoption is emotionally complicated. No matter how prepared you think you are for what is about to happen, things rarely go according to plan. People are messy. Even those of us who think we have it together. :)
Be tender and honest with one another. In all circumstances. Speak gently, especially when the message is painful. But always be honest, and wrap it in genuine love.
Plan for the worst case scenario when you are preparing an adoption plan. As a birthmother, you may not think that you will need lots of contact or interaction. But you might be surprised.
As an adoptive parent, you might think that you are perfectly content with the creation of your family through adoption. But infertility grief seems to have long tentacles. And even the joy of adoption can make those pesky tentacles grow. Couple that with the strong "mama bear" instinct and suddenly sharing stories, pictures and visits with the birth parents becomes harder than you expected. Especially when the birthmother is so engulfed with her own grief.
And these are just general statements which I know do not apply to everyone. However, I was sure it didn't apply to me either. I had seen two separate counselors, explained my decision to a hundred different people (probably literally), and I was still overcome by an extreme need for more contact after her birth. Which was only inflamed by getting less than we thought we would have.
If you are reading this and you are a mother considering an open adoption, PLEASE do not let this scare you about open adoption! Open adoption can be beautiful. I am watching from a distance as families I have come to know and love are navigating wonderful adoption relationships. Mine is just very new and we are still figuring out our dance. So I have fresh grief and I am dealing with the actions that grief has also brought to Brit's family. (Which hopefully is slowly going by the wayside.)
Wow. This didn't go where I thought it was, but I suppose that is the therapeutic part of blogging.
I hope others share their thoughts along these lines. I like hearing from others so much more than hearing from me.