Friday, September 23, 2011

How we got here

A couple of times people have asked me if I have contacted my agency or social worker about acting as a liaison to help me with my desire for more contact with Brit's family.

The answer is no.  Simply because we don't have either.  Brit's parents and I were matched privately, through a mutual friend.  All of our interaction was on our own terms.  Completely unfacilitated.  We had an attorney draw up the paperwork, but that was just a quick meeting.

As far as the "open adoption agreement", we don't have one.  And even if we did, our state does not enforce them.  All open adoptions are left to the adoptive parents to honor if they so choose.  Even if it is written in some type of document, it is unenforceable, because birthparents have no rights.  They are terminated immediately and irrevocably in the State of Kansas.

But following is how we got to where we are today. 

(If you are Brit's family or friends of them, please do not take offense.  This is my perspective.  My story.  And completely one-sided I'm sure.  It is definitely skewed because of my emotional involvement.  There is absolutely no way I can be objective.  Please accept my apology if the following is offensive to you.  It is not inteded to be.)

When we were choosing adoption for Brit, none of us had been down this path.  Our families had little or no experience with it. My first husband was adopted in a closed adoption and has no desire to seek his birthfamily.  I have a friend who has an adopted son who does not have any relationship with his birthfamily.  I don't think Brit's parents knew anyone who had adoption experience.  We were all far from experts.

Brit's mom and I did some online research and read some books.  But to be honest, not nearly enough reading and research.  It was only after Brit's birth and my complete disintegration as a person that I researched intensively.

My statement to them during my pregnancy was that I thought we would just let it go and see how our open adoption developed.  I never wanted to intrude on their life with this child.  I wanted them to feel like they were the parents.  I expected that we would continue our friendship and interaction that we had developed during the pregnancy.  We never talked about visits or had a formal plan.  We talked about it being child driven.

You see, while I was pregnant, we talked all the time.  On the phone, in person and via email.  Brit's mom went to every single doctor's appt with me.  I included her on everything.  I shared when Brit started to kick (we matched very early in the pregnancy), when she was giving me fits at night and we always talked about the silly hiccups she constantly had.

We went to dinner a couple of times with Brit's parents.  We were great friends.

We didn't make a plan, because honestly I never ever dreamed I would need one.

I had made a new friend.  She seemed like she was one of my sisters.  We got along great.  There was absolutely nothing that made me think that would ever change.

At the end of the pregnancy I did say to Brit's mom that I would love for all of us to have a get together before school started again in fall (Brit was born in March).  I thought it would be neat to have Brit and her family get together with us and our families.  Brit's mom never indicated that she had no intentions of that ever happening.  (Looking back now, I think she never intended to get together.  But I don't think she was going to say that to me at that point.)

I should have realized that Brit's mom might not be fully open with me when she declined my two FB friend requests while I was pregnant.  I never said anything to her about it, because I wanted to respect her privacy.  But looking back now I wonder if that should have given me an indication that my interaction with her was always going to be limited.  And please don't take this as any kind of accusation.  I know she chooses to be private, so I let it go.  Not everyone likes to be friends with everyone they know on FB.  So I justified her actions with regard to this both then and still today.

During the hospital stay after Brit was born, we had her parents stay at the hospital with us.  The first night BF and I kept Brit.  The second night they kept her.  Their family came in and out of my hospital room all the time.  We even all had a pizza party.  Me in all of my post-partum glory hosting a family get together with Brit's parent's families.  Brothers, sisters, and parents.  They were all there.  It felt like we were all in this together.  I was happy.  This is exactly how I envisioned our relationship.  One big extended family all loving one child.

The last day there, we didn't even have Brit's pictures taken by the photographer because BF and I said we would just let her parents have the pictures taken by their friend.  We figured we would get some.  (We got some emailed to us of a photo shoot that they did with her that didn't work out too well.  But never received any actual pictures ever.  If you can't tell this is something I regret deeply.  I have never had a professional photo of Brit and I would sure love to have one.)

So we left the hospital, they thanked us for Brit, gave each of us a gift and we parted ways at the front door.

Not another text message.  Not a phone call.

When I couldn't stand it anymore and I sent an email to Brit's mom the first of May (Brit was about 6 weeks old).  She replied and it was nice. She  included a couple of pictures of them at home with baby.

A couple of weeks later, I got us the courage to ask if Brit's mom in an email if I could meet her for lunch with Brit some day before she had to go back to work.  That is when she emailed back and said she didn't mean to be disrespectful, but they weren't comfortable with that yet.

That was one of the very worst days of my life.

I left work, went home and cried hysterically.  The kind of sobs that shake your entire soul.  My best friend lives about 40 minutes away and she drove in to hold me.  It makes me cry right now remembering that day.

That was the beginning of when I really recognized that we were purposely being kept at a distance.  Without going back and recalling the exact timeline of how things happened, the basics of what happened after that are:

In September, (Brit was 6 months old) I completely lost my mind because I was getting less and less interaction from Brit's parents (they didn't reply to monthly email exchanges, they would just send an update and even if I asked a follow up, Brit's mom wouldn't reply). So one night I sent an email to Brit's dad and asked what I had done that had kept Brit's mom from emailing me.  She used to be the one who talked to me all the time and then the updates stopped coming from her and started coming from him instead.  It was blatantly obvious that she had stopped interacting with me.

He called me the next morning and it was a real eye opener.  I found out that Brit's mom was dealing with infertility grief, a struggle with feeling like she was completely bonding with Brit as her mom, and the crushing idea that Brit might be their only child.  He said that they had found themselves very protective of Brit. 

It was after that phone conversation with Brit's dad that I realized that I was just going to have to wait until they were comfortable with being Brit's parents before they would ever consider any kind of personal interaction with us again.  BF and I offered counseling for all four of us and they declined.

I also received an email back from Brit's mom (in response to my email to them about why I was no longer being interacted with) and I found out how pictures I was sending her of my kids and me made her realize Brit looks like me and it upset her.  It was that day that I realized that my new interaction with them would include them emailing me when they wanted to, and I was no longer free to share pictures of our family back with them.  (Another heartbreak)

HYSTERIA ensued.  Privately of course.  And it lasted weeks.  I was debilitated with grief.  Completely lacking hope.

Looking back now, I also realize they were actively pursuing pregnancy at this point.

From that point forward I promised to not ask again to see Brit.  But I was very clear that I desperately wanted a visit with her and if there was ever a day or opportunity I would immediately be open to it.

It was then that I tried to stop focusing on what I didn't have and instead be a bigger person.  I sent a birthday gift to Brit's mom in October.  I just waited for them to email me (always on the 25th).  I replied kindly, without pictures and always thanked them for continuing to share.

In November, a day before I would have normally received my monthly email, I emailed Brit's dad (who I was primarily corresponding with at this point) and I shared with him information about the benefits of open adoption and why I thought Brit and our families would benefit from more openness.  He thanked me and told me he would consider it. That was the extent of that conversation.

For Christmas, BF and Brit's dad got together and had a drink and BF gave him our gifts for Brit.  I got a nice email back from Brit's mom a couple of days later saying Brit loved the gifts.  This was particularly hard for me as I know that Brit is only 10 minutes away.  But I can't take her a Christmas present.  I had to have my BF meet up in a private meeting with Brit's dad for the gift exchange.

Monthly emails came in Jan and Feb.  Finally, March 7th (yes I know the day), Brit's dad emailed and said they were ready for us to have a visit with Brit for about 2 hours.  We worked out the details and finally on March 20th (THE BEST DAY EVER), Brit and her parents came over to BF's house and stayed for 2 hours.  It was that day that we first realized they were pregnant (with twins).  Something they had never shared that with us up to that point.  I found out by seeing her walk in the front door with a distinctively pregnant tummy.  She was about 6 months pregnant at that time.

Right after our visit, Brit's parents were somehow turned on to my blog.  After reading it, they were upset and wanted to meet with us.  Not even BF knew about my blog so I am still not sure who told them, but it completely doesn't matter anymore.

We met at a restaurant just the four of us and discussed how I really wanted more interaction with them.  They said that they had never considered a relationship like that with us but they would think about it.  That was the last face to face (or phone) interaction I have had with them.

I continue to send Mothers/Fathers Day cards, and we even sent a 4th of July care package for Brit (she had just become a big sister at the end of June, so we wanted to send her something special).

To this day, we continue to receive monthly emails.  We do not receive phone calls, cards or anything else.  No mothers day, fathers day, birthday or any other acknowledgement.  But I have gotten past that, and I am OK with it being one sided.

I don't want to stop doing those things because I consider them friends.  They may not share the same sentiments, but I have had to come to terms with that.  I decided that I wasn't going to let that change how I feel and acted toward them.

So there you have it.

We live 10 minutes away, but are continents away in our desires for our open adoption relationship.

My counselor who I see regularly keeps reminding me that HOW THINGS ARE TODAY IS NOT NECESSARILY HOW THEY WILL BE FOREVER.  So I am holding to the hope that as time goes on, this will get better.  And hopefully easier.

And I know that absolutely none of this takes any of THEIR feelings into consideration.  I cannot even speak to that because I am not them, and I don't know what they are really thinking or feeling.  We don't have that kind of relationship so I just have to speculate.

After re-reading all I have typed here, I also realize I have not given justice to the kindness I receive from Brit's parents in their email correspondence with me.  Brit's father is particularly kind and gentle with me.  I have spoken to this before.  The man who makes my adoption bearable It is very appreciated.  But both of them are always kind and seem to understand I am dealing with grief.

So there you have it.  How we got here.  I own my part by not being clear from the beginning about what I wanted post adoption to look like.  I had no idea.  And they had no idea how they would feel post-adoption either.  We had no way to know what was about to hit all of us. If only we had. 

So for those who ask if I am angry because Brit's parents haven't honored our open adoption agreement, that is not true because we didn't have one.  We just had a relationship.  A relationship that wasn't ready for the pressure that was about to ensue.  No one has 'changed their mind' about our adoption openness, because it was never defined prior to birth. 

Prospective birthmother's reading this - PLEASE DON'T MAKE THIS MISTAKE!  Potential adoptive parents, please realize that no matter what a birthmom says right now, she may want and need visits more than once a year or whatever else you all think will be just fine.  And if you remain flexible, it might just be the greatest gift you could give your child.   A real relationship with his/her birthfamily.

So moving on...

Now I am ready to start the chapters about how we progressed from the history to the happier ending.


Marie said...

My heart breaks for you. I hope that someday you will be able to share more in Brit's life.

As an adoptive parent, my life couldn't be more amazing because of someone like you. It saddens me to see adoptive parents who can't give a birthmother the respect she deserves. Yes, infertility is a monster, but it's not an excuse to be hurtful. You're in my thoughts and prayers.

MommySquared said...

I am currently attending a conference in Virgina on Openness in Adoption and when I read this it makes me mad ... how could they deny their daughter her history...I get that no one knew what it would be like and no one was prepared for how it feels but Brit has a right to know where she came from ... and when she is older if they have been open with her she will ask if they deny her it will be in secrecy that she finds you ... I hope this is not how you are reunited ... I hope that her parents and others like her see they should not have fear but embrace all who love the child and let a village be part of their life!

Keeping you in my thoughts :)

MommySquared said...

here's a blog of a young woman who too is a birth mom and happens to be at the conference I am attending ... I told her about your blog too!

J said...

I worry for Brit, and how she'll feel as she grows older and processes the details of her adoption. I'm sure she's loved and cherished, but the fact they seem to have found ''sharing'' her speaks volumes, especially when you take into consideration they were having fertility treatments before she was a year old. It just seems like adopting a child wasn't everything they hoped it would be, and I hope that never impacts Brit.

Cindy said...

WOW. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope that one day you will see the reason all this is happening. Thank you for addressing my question, whether you directly meant to or not, since you don't know me. Maybe birthing a child will change the adoptive parents mind about this situation. Bless you!

Amber said...

This just breaks my heart. (I'm sorry for missing this post when you wrote it!) I hope and pray - HARD - that Brit's parents come to realize that they aren't doing her any favors by keeping you away. Not only because you are her birthmother, but also because the more people who love our children, the better.

Secondly, thank you so very, VERY much for your comment on my blog. You just have no idea how much it means to me coming from you. I would be really interested in re-posting it along with a link to your blog... but only if that's okay with you. Let me know your thoughts.

Thinking of you. <3

Lavender Luz said...

I think you DID make your expectations clear. I think the people who adopted your daughter reneged, clear and simple, once they got what they wanted.

The will have some 'splainin' to do someday.

Grrrrrrr...I get made at people who's actions give all adoptive parents a bad name.

And I'm so sorry you are on the receiving end of broken (implied) promises. I do hope their hearts will soften over time.

Hugs to you, LisaAnne.

Heather said...

I am so, so sorry. Your heartbreak is so very evident.

I fervently hope that Brit's adoptive parents work out whatever insecurities or misconceptions they have that are prompting them to put up these barriers between you. For your sake, for their sake, but above all, for Brit's sake. She deserves to be surrounded by the love of her entire family.

ms. marginalia said...

It makes me very sad that Brit's aparents seem to value and understand the importance of blood ties--the went out and worked hard to get pregnant with their own flesh and blood kids, didn't they?--and yet deny Brit access to *her* family. Whether it's due to insecurity, or embarrassment at this point, or something else, I hope that they will look deep inside themselves and see the terrible incongruity. Brit will grow up and see it, and it is patently unfair. If I were she, I would be very angry about it down the road. There is only so much brainwashing APs can do.

I wish you all the best, and I am sorry that miscommunication and misunderstanding led you to this place. There should be shared love of a child, not ownership issues.

As an adult adoptee, I can tell you that it feels awful to feel sandwiched between two families. I am fortunate that now things are all right; I hope to see Brit in a better place, too, because *she* is what matters in all this. I hope her APs wake up and see that.

Anonymous said...

You sound like an incredibly trusting and forgiving person. It sounds like you really want to believe only the best of these people. I don't know if you've heard of "The Wall" It may be difficult to read. It's painfully obvious how desperately you try to be non threatening to them. Still, it may help you to see that you are be no means alone in your experience. Here's the link Clare (sorry anon- google trouble, but I hope you will read the link)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that link didn't work. Hopefully this one will or just google
The Wall + Open Adoption + Terri

LisaAnne said...

Thank you all for your words of encouragement.

I keep praying that things will change.

That link to the essay about the wall was emotionally intense. Thank you to whoever posted that link. I have that wall in my life and I obsess about it.

I am always packed and ready, just waiting for the moment I might be allowed through it.

Anonymous said...

It is totally understandable how you would have trusted someone at a vulnerable time in your life, someone who acted like a friend.

I can't tell you how many stories like this I've heard over the years ... where women thought of the people who wanted to adopt their children as such good friends that no written contract would be needed.

They naturally thought the friendship would continue at the same level it had throughout pregnancy. Why wouldn't they?

Who would imagine a woman would befriend another woman, a mother, for the purpose of obtaining her baby ... and then cut off the friendship.

By the time women understand what has happened, it's often too late.

The adoptive father sounds like a kind man. My heart aches for you.

Anonymous said...

Here's a better link to "The Wall". It's more updated.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand? After reading your blog ( I am truly sorry for your pain) why didn't you raise your child? You were a mother already ad knew what you would be missing, so why would you place? Also, maybe your bchild's parents are trying to see it from an adoptee's point of view. How painful it would be to know their bparents kept the older bsiblings but not them, and come around for visits? No matter how much love the child feels from the aparents, and is very happy with being adopted, could not probably erase the feeling of rejection.It's alot to put on a child.

Just food for thought.

Jennifer said...

I think you try very hard to see things from everyone's point of view. You are a very empathic person. I am sorry you had to go through such pain.