Friday, August 12, 2011

Sometimes words you hear keep you from being able to breathe

I have met someone new.  He doesn't live here.  So we are spending alot of time getting to know each other on the phone.  Which is kinda nice.  We met and spent a day together at an event, but he left that night and I have not seen him since.

He finally asked me the other day to explain to him why I said I have had 4 children but I only talk about 3 of them.

I told him about Brit.  I did really well.  I didn't cry (or at least not so he could hear).

The first words out of his mouth were "I sure wish I would have known you then.  I would love to have a child (he is 42 without kids of his own).  Is there any way you can get her back?"

And my immediate response without thinking was "If I could have, I would have done it days after I signed the papers."

He gently replied to me "That is just so sad.  I feel awful for you."


But on a happy note, this is the first time I have told someone I might have a relationship with about my adoption and it went well.

Not equals

I had another dream about Brit.  It was the very best one yet. 

In the dream her parents were super busy with the twins.  For whatever reason, I was at their house for a visit and they essentially handed Brit over to me to let me entertain her and take care of her without any oversight by them.

It was wonderful.  We played.  She talked.  I was amazed by how she was putting words together.  And she trusted me.  She even snuggled her little head on my shoulder. 

It was amazing.

I sure do miss her.  Funny to think about missing someone who has only seen me once for two hours in the past year.

So when I woke up, I sent a text message to her BF.  He and I are still very friendly even though we are not a couple.  We will occasionally hang out together and we talk on the phone at least every few days.

In the text message I told him I had the dream and I would really like to see Brit again.

He texted back that he would too and wondered if we should try to contact her dad to see if we could set something up.

Later that evening, BF and I sat down and talked about how we wanted to handle asking.  We are afraid to ask too much.  We don't want to push them away.  Or make them feel like we are asking them to do something they are not comfortable with.  We wondered if we are asking too much.  We wrestled with timing and consideration of what might work best for them.

As we sat there talking about the visit we wish we could ask for, it struck me how carefully we tread so we don't offend.  Two professional, emotionally balanced, grown adults who are currently parenting 5 children of our own.

I was reminded that this is the inequality of power in a relationship that birthparents often refer to.  We are terrified that at any moment we could be shut out of our child's life.  If we push too much, say the wrong thing, behave the wrong way.  The list could go on.

I know potential adoptive parents worry about all those things too when the matching process is going on.  I have heard how APs hold their breath until the moment the termination papers are actually signed.

But then, it is over.  No more best behavior required.  They have the child and now get to make all the rules.  For 18 years, maybe even longer.

But for birthparents, we have to live every day post-relinquishment knowing that our open adoption could close at any moment.  Maybe because of something we have done.  Maybe because of reasons we aren't even aware of.

We are not an equal in the adoption triad.  No matter what people say.  Birthparents are rarely considered equal in the adoption relationship. 

Now, I don't believe everyone in the adoption triad should be equal.  I firmly believe the child should be the focus of every decision.  Adoption is something they have no control over.  Birthparents chose it.  Adoptive parents chose it.  And our children are the ones who have to deal with all of the decisions made by the adults.

But I wish that we as adults in adoption relationships didn't have to deal with the human need to claim our authority when it comes to the children.

And I know this from a limited perspective of being a divorced parent.  I have had to learn that while I may not like or approve of my ex-husband's parenting, decision making, or even the way he speaks to me, I cannot sever the relationship my children have with their father. 

He will always be their father.  I cannot pretend that he isn't.  Even if they had a step-father who was the greatest father ever to them, they still deserve to have a relationship with their father.  I don't get to decide whether or not they know him. (Understanding that I would NOT allow a relationship with a man who was abusive to my children - which is absolutely not the case in this example.)

I have to repress the feelings I have of control over my children and remember that this is not about ME, but about THEM, and what is ultimately best for them.  I would love to run away with them and start over with a life where I didn't have to share them back with a man who does not have an ounce of respect or consideration for me.

But it is not about ME.  It is about the CHILDREN.  And not being near their father, with complete access to him, would not be what is best for them.

So I put aside my pride, and move on.

Yet, in the open adoption relationship, there is potential for the birthparent to be completely discarded.  No explanation required.

It just doesn't seem very fair.

Back to our conversation about visits with Brit.  BF and I both decided that we would like to ask that we get at least two visits per year with Brit.  (Remember they live 10 minutes from us, this is not a logistics nightmare.)  I think this would help me know that if I just hang on for X many months, I will get to see her again.  Right now, I have complete uncertainty about if or when we will be allowed to see her again.

So we wrestled back and forth about when it would be easiest for those visits to happen.  We want to be super considerate of their schedules, and the complication that they have with two brand new infants.

We decided to wait until next week and email Brit's dad to see if he thinks that might work for their family.  BF is going to do it, man to man (which, can I say I respect SO much).  I love how both of the fathers in this adoption relationship are willing to talk to make this relationship as easy as possible for the mothers involved.  I bet that doesn't happen often.  Another area I should count as a blessing.

So we will be good birthparents.  We will wait patiently.  Ask for the minimum and pray that we will be granted time with Brit.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fingers crossed

I think about Brit all the time.  I wish she was with us and sharing our crazy life.

I know Brit has no idea that there is even a crazy world out there. She is sheltered, cherished and loved.  Living the existence a one year old should have.

So during the the last two weeks, I am glad to say I have been able to think about Brit without tears streaming down my face.  I can think about her without the deep anguish that usually debilitates me.

Then Sunday something absolutely amazing happened.  I received an email from Brit's mom.  She responded to an email I had sent back to her husband when he sent the last update which was about a week ago.

You see, in the beginning, I used to send long emails back to Brit's parents telling them what was going on in our lives.  I would attach a couple of pictures thinking they would appreciate seeing what we were up to, just like I enjoy hearing about their family.

Later I learned that Brit's mom had a hard time looking at our pictures.  She would see pictures of me and be reminded how much Brit looked like me.

When I found that out, I stopped sending them.

As time went on, I stopped talking much about our life at all.  Instead I would thank them for the updates and respond kindly to whatever story they shared with us about Brit.

Never once would they follow up and ask how we were doing.  They wouldn't ask what we were up to.  Our information sharing was definitely a one way street.  They shared what they wanted us to know, and we thanked them.

But this time, I just disregarded my past discretion and decided that I wanted to start sharing back with them again.  Now that they have two more children (the twins just born this summer), I felt like the infertility grief and the sadness about Brit possibly being their only child might be better now.  Maybe it wouldn't be so threatening to send pictures and stories about us now.

So I did.  I sent a long email telling them what we have been up to and attached several pictures.

And this time, Brit's MOM wrote back.  That is a really big deal.  First of all, she has to be exhausted.  She has newborn twins and a one year old.  Plus she has to be an emotional mess.  She just gave birth.  She should be on a hormone roller coaster.

But she sent a super nice email in response to what I had sent.  Now, she didn't mention the pictures at all.  But she did acknowledge the things I shared about what was going on in our lives.  And she even ended the email saying she was going to try to get a picture of Brit swinging the golf clubs we sent her.

It is amazing how an email that would be so small and insignificant in any other relationship was a HUGE deal to me in this relationship.  It was almost the kind of email that we used to exchange before Brit was born.

I am so hopeful that this might be an indicator that things might get better.  Maybe we can re-establish the kind of relationship that I enjoyed pre-baby.

Fingers crossed.