Friday, January 27, 2012

Love grows

Sitting in my living room last night I was reflective of what was going on around me.

I had printed 150 pictures from things we have done as a family since October.  Lots and lots of pictures of the boys playing together, being silly and celebrating the holidays.  I had also printed the pictures we've received of Brit over the past few months.

I was carefully looking through the stack so I could pick 8 photos to put in a collage frame.  I wanted to represent our entire family.  One picture of each child, including Brit. One picture of all the boys together and one photo of BF and me.

While I was doing that, BF was putting all the rest of the photos in an album.

And during that time, I realized how much our love has grown.  Not just the love between the two of us, but the love between all 7 of us.

I love BF's kids.  He loves mine.  We show all of the children affection and attention, irregardless of who has the biological connection. Honestly, there are many times that if you saw all of us interacting, you might not know who was born to who.

Brotherly love (the two 12 year olds)
While I love that BF and I are able to love each other's children, there is something even greater than that.  It is the love that the boys have for each other.

The first words out of my boys mouths when I pick them up after work each day is "Does BF have the boys tonight?"  And if I say no, that it is a mom day for them, they moan and are visibly disappointed.  (I usually follow it up with "What am I? Chopped liver?!?!)

Two of our boys are the exact same age.  The other two are one year apart.  And it is amazing how well they get along.  We are so lucky.  I know this is not normal.  I have blended a family before, not nearly as easily. But in this case, our boys actually enjoy the time they get to spend together. They consider each other brothers.

But back to my reflections about familial love...

Just because my boys love BF, it does not in any way change their love for their father.  They still think their dad walks on water. They are crazy about him.

Pals - our two youngest
The boys don't call BF dad.  They call him by his name.  They know that he cares for them.  But they also know who their dad is.

We have never had to define it.  Is is understood.  They are allowed to love BF without having split loyalty to their father.  BF does not try to be their dad.  He clearly understand that role belongs to their father.  But he can love them the same, no title required.  No 'competition' for first place.

There is plenty of love to go around for all of us.  We didn't have to divide what love we had prior to meeting each other, instead we just grew more.  

Before adoption changed my life, I would not have reflected much on something as natural as this.

My sisters and mom
Prior to relinquishment, I knew that I love easily.  I come by it naturally.  Within my immediate family of sisters and parents ,we bring people into the fold all the time.  Family is not defined by blood.  There is always someone in our lives who we are loving as if they are one of our family.  And as far as we are concerned, they are.

Since relinquishment, I am learning that not all families operate like this.  Apparently there is a sense of clan that some families have the does not allow others in very easily.  I have also learned that when it comes to children, some adults find claiming ownership very important.  Establishing the child as one of their clan, and  ONLY their clan is important.

Me, my  (former step) daughter and her mom.  Still family in spite of divorce.
That was all new to me.  I had no idea that was such an issue to so many people.

Since relinquishment, I have also learned that there are ALOT of families who are like mine.  They grow their love based on the people who enter their lives.

I now have a new appreciation for those kinds of people.  The kind of people who believe that there can never be too much love.  And that the love well has no bottom.  You can keep dipping in as many times as you wish.

Through all of the heartache adoption has caused me, it has also made me appreciate things so much more than I used to.  And I now recognize and appreciate those who let their love grow and love without boundaries.

Yes, I will eat your pizza in front of your friends at school!

Driving the golf cart together - heaven help us

Checking out chicks at the mall
J does come around when there are presents.

PS - There is no picture of my oldest son with any of the other boys.  It is amazing how once a child turns 18, he is no longer nearly as interested in staying home to play with his little brothers. :)

Here is just a Christmas picture of him for good measure!

PPS - Here are pictures of the children with each of their biological parents, in case you wondered who was born to who.  Personally, I think it is hard to tell when we are all together.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January email update

We got our monthly email today followed by some pictures. Brit's dad shared examples of how Brit is amazing and exceptional for an 'almost 2' year old.

He gets it.

Today I realized that the only person who can fully understand my grief and pain is BF. And today when I needed him the most, he was there. He understood and without me even asking, he functioned for me.

I know that he is broken by this adoption relationship too. But he is a boy. And he does not express it all the time like I do. Yet, today when I called him after we received our monthly email, I realized that he is truly amazing. He made me feel so much better. Not because he tried to tell me it was all ok, but instead because he told me it is not ok.

Together we talked about how this relationship is broken in spite of our fervent efforts. We are not being treated thoughtfully.

He made no excuses for them. He did not try to justify it. He simply said out loud what my heart thought. And while it doesn't fix anything, it is so nice to know he feels the same way.

There is something comforting about having someone understand completely. BF is the only person who could love Brit the same way I do.  He is also the only other person who can feel the depth of loss that I do. His interest in this relationship is just as vested as mine.

While my heart is hurt by all we have been through and are living through now, I absolutely love this man who understands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tomorrow is the 25th and we all know what that means...

I have been asked from time to time if getting regular updates causes me more pain than not hearing or seeing would.

The answer is an unequivocal NO!

I live for the 25th of every month.

Just the idea that I will see what she looks like now and hear how she has changed makes me nearly crazy with anticipation the entire week before an update.

The weeks of not knowing are what hurt my heart the most.  The deafening silence is what is painful.

Then we get a picture like this and I melt for a while.

So right now I am thinking about where I might be tomorrow when the email comes in.  Will it be during the day?  Will it be from her mom or dad?  What kind of pictures will they include?  Did she like the Christmas presents we sent?  How big is she now?  What does she say?  What does she play with?

The questions swirl in my head.  I am so glad that within 24 hours I will know the answers to at least some of them.  It's like getting a peek into her little world.

And I will read that email at least 50 times over the course of the next 30 days.  Because that is my only connection to her right now.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Check out Love Is Not a Pie

Sometimes someone says something so profound that there is no reason to change a single bit of it.

I could read Rebecca Hawkes blog all day long.  She is amazing. He blog today deals with the question Is open adoption disruptive to adoptive families? Her post is short and poignant.  I hope you hop over there and take a look.

And if you are an advocate for open adoption, like me, you will be hooked.  Rebecca is super cool.

She lives the talk.  She herself is an adoptee, parenting both an adopted child and a biological child.  And did I mention she maintains a relationship with her daughter's first mother, even though her daughter came to their family through the foster system?...  Yes, she is that cool.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

To feel valued...

Normally I do not talk about specific situations that I am dealing with regarding Brit's parents because I am never sure if they are reading my blog.  So I never want to say anything that could potentially have a negative impact on our relationship.

But today I just decided I want to say out loud how I have felt inside (and have expressed to BF on more than one occasion).

I am so disappointed.  Disappointment to my core.

I do not expect alot from others.  I try to be gracious and accept that people are all different.  We behave differently.  We parent differently.  We spend our time differently.

But there comes a point where it becomes obvious if you are a valued part of someone's life.

We are not feeling valued.

We are not asking to be treasured or held in the highest regard.  We are not asking to be a number one priority to you and/or your family.

But we do wish that you would at least extend to us the same courtesy that you would to an extended family member.

When we send a Christmas gift package (or any other holiday) to your children and it is not acknowledged in any way, we wonder if you got it.  And when we see from the tracking that you did, your silence speaks to us.

Yes, you do generally remember to say thank you in the subsequent monthly email update. But would it be so hard to send a 3 sentence email when you received the package and say, "We got your gift.  Thank you.  Brit enjoys it."?

When special days in our lives come and go and they are never acknowledged by you (birthdays, mothers day, and every holiday), we realize that the effort we make to celebrate those special days for you, is not reciprocated.

While we know that Brit is not old enough to send us a card, sometimes parents do that on behalf of their child.  We send a card for every holiday and special day in your life.  Still not a single piece of mail has ever been delivered to our mailbox with your return address.  Not a happy birthday or holiday email or text message.  Nothing.

When we contact you and kindly ask if we can discuss our adoption relationship, your non-response speaks volumes.  Being blatantly ignored is very hurtful. And we are left to deal with the hurt with no explanation or understanding.

We are forever grateful for the monthly updates.  The pictures and stories are the only salve we have for our hearts.  But would you consider how much it might mean to us if you would snap a picture as Brit opens her gifts from us, since we were not allowed any time together with her to watch her open them in person?

I know it is hard to remember birthdays and having 3 little children in your home has to be hectic.  We are very understanding.  We have 5 boys of our own that take our every waking minute, plus we both work full time jobs.  But our relationship with you is a priority to us.  So we make sure that you know it by expressing it to you in tangible ways.

We send gifts because it is a way for us to express our love to Brit and your family since we do not get to see any of you on those special occasions.  We send cards to let you know we are thinking about you.

We do not want gifts in return.  We have everything we could possibly want or need.  We just want to feel like you think about us too.  And since we do not have an interactive relationship in the sense of phone calls or text messages, the only way we would know that you remember us would be through a card, or letter or even a thoughtful email that was not sent according to schedule.

You used to interact with us like that before you took Brit home.  You were thoughtful and expressive when I was pregnant.  So we know you are capable of such feelings and actions.

This lack of interaction with you is very hard for BF and me to understand.  In your emails, you say that you love us and are thankful for us, but your actions do not necessarily support those statements.

We get the distinct feeling that you are willing to invest the minimum.  And because you have decided that monthly email updates are what you are comfortable with, it ends there. *The short surprise visit that you allowed us to have last year around the time of Brit's first birthday was very nice, and VERY appreciated.  But we also realize it was simply a gift extended to us, not to be expected.

We sure wish that we meant enough to you that you would consider more.

But we aren't going to push it. It appears that our heartfelt pleas do not influence what you feel is an acceptable relationship between our two families.

We have had to come to our own peace with the fact that this is how it is right now.  We cannot change it.  We have no power or influence.  We hold no cards.  We are at your mercy.

We are going to keep sending cards on special occasions.  And we will continue to send gifts on holidays unless you tell us otherwise.  We want to do this because we are thinking about your family and we want show you that in the only way that we can.  However, we have come to expect that there will be silence in return.

Honestly, we don't want a response to our attempts at interaction with you unless you WANT to respond to us.  It is like asking our children to apologize and they say they are sorry, but we know that in their heart they are not truly remorseful.  We don't want lip service.  We want it to be real.

We love that little girl.  And until she is able to desire a relationship with us, we are at your mercy and we know it.

We just wish you felt that our relationship with Brit, and with your family, was valuable to you.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Clinging to HOPE

Thank you to Lindsay at the R House for working on my focus this past week.  Not in a eye-vision kind of way, but in an attitude way.

She had an amazing blog post about how their family theme this year will be HOPE.  While Lindsay and I do not share the same religious beliefs, I will say that as I read the post I felt like it was God talking to me.

So the day I read it, I decided that I am going to try to use that as my cue word to refocus myself when I am feeling so grief stricken.

I am going to claim HOPE.

And as usual, my favorite Bible verse reinforces this for me...

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know he plans I have for you," declares the Lord,
"Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future."

And if you think about it, pray for Lindsay and her family. It appears the expecting mom who had originally considered placing her daughter with the R family, has chosen instead to parent her daughter. The R family is very supportive of her in that endeavor as they have come to love her and they want only the best for her and her children.  So although they are still supporting this expecting mother (they love her), their hearts are still sad as they realize this child will not be joining their family.

As you can imagine this expecting mother is also heavy on my heart and also in my prayers.  I would guess she must be struggling with the decision to parent and the logistics of how she will do that with her limited resources.  So if you are praying, please add C to your prayers too.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Let he who has no sin cast the first stone

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” ― T.H. Thompson and John Watson

I have a friend who is in a similar situation to mine.  She is hurt.  Broken.  And buried so deep in grief that many of her actions and words are born from an excruciating pain that few would probably understand.  She is a shell of the person she once was.

Most days she is lucky just to make it through another day. I understand those feelings all too well.

I love her.  I ache with her.  My heart breaks every single time I speak to her.

I do not always agree with the things that she says.  Sometimes I feel like she isn't being fair to everyone involved. And when she says things that I believe might just be her perception and not necessarily the reality, I ask her if she might have considered that her perception might be skewed by her grief.  Sometimes she agrees, other times she does not.  She may be right, I may be right.  It simply doesn't matter.  Because her feelings are hers and mine are mine.

I love her in spite of her faults.  She loves me even when I don't agree with her.  She is broken.  I am broken.

But she is also passionate about truth.  She is extremely intelligent (maybe to a fault). Her grief has driven her to pursue her passion for making sure others do not make the mistakes she has.

Do I always agree with her presentation?  No.  But I always love her.  No matter what.  And while her presentation might be harsh, and her passion considered nearly obsessive, she is often right. The desires of her heart are not to harm others, but to save those she can from a grief that she knows all too well.

She is using her grief to help others.

I am not to judge her.  I know this because I believe that Christ was specific with us.  I am to love her.  Just as I am to love Brit's adoptive parents.  Not conditionally, because they have done something nice for me, or treated me well.  But unconditionally because that is how Christ loves me.

That does not mean that I have to be accepting of unkind actions. It just means that I have to be willing to forgive and show that person the kind of love that Christ would.

So today I found out that there are those who have taken it upon themselves to tell others in her adoption triad about some of the grief riddled words she has spoken about her adoption situation.  Words that were not intended to be said to the others, but words that she expressed when her grief was overflowing.  Words that she said when her heart had been so broken that nothing made sense.  Words that she meant.  They described her pain and her hurt.

And it broke my heart.  Knowing that there are those who are also in adoption relationships themselves would ever think it best to share that information with another set of adoptive parents (who they did not know personally but had to seek to find). I cannot imagine who would think that would be a good idea and beneficial for ANYONE. 

Her adoptive parents are good people.  Extraordinarily open and respectful.  People who are doing their best to have an open adoption relationship that includes all of their child's birthfamily.

I understand that my friend may have said things that others perceived as unkind about her son's adoptive parents.   I also know she fervently pursues changes to adoption laws and practices that some adoptive parents find threatening.  

But she and her son's adoptive parents speak every single day.  They have a relationship.  She has shared with them that things that they have said and done have hurt her and her family.  They speak of these things.  Her feelings are not a secret from them.

What these who disagree with her are doing is just going to create pain. This kind of information will not improve their adoption relationship, it will only bring harm.

So is this really any of OUR business?  Absolutely not.  This is a family matter.  Their family.  Not mine. Not yours.

Those of us who write as a form of therapeutic release know that blogging allows us the ability to share our hurts, disappointments and overwhelming frustrations without directing those words at someone specific.

Sometimes things we say are words we later regret.  But they are thoughts and feelings that are on our hearts at that time.  And if we are not using real names or any identifying information, then it can even be helpful to others who read our words when they realize they too feel the same way or have had the same experience.

Unless I thought someone was going to be hurt or irreparably harmed, I would never seek out someone to tattle.  Which is exactly what has happened here.  It is a grown up game of tattling by those who think they know best.

All of it makes me sad.  There is enough hurt and misunderstanding in adoption.  The idea that someone(s) would proactively "stir the pot" as they say, makes me so sad for everyone involved.

No good can come of this.  And it is shameful.

Ephesians 4:29
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear"

John 15:12
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Luke 6:37
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;"

James 4:11-12
"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?"

Matthew 7:1-5
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lighthearted update non-adoption related

I was thinking this weekend that I never updated all my readers about what happened to the men who made their way to my blog during the 'finding myself' months when BF and I were not together as a couple.

Some of the stories are good so here we go.

I went out a couple of times with an older gentleman who had been a friend of mine for a couple of years. He was very nice but I had no romantic chemistry with him. He tried for months to try to continue a relationship with me but I was just not interested. I am glad to report he has found love and I am so happy for him.

Then there was the guy from Nashville. I flew out there to spend a weekend with him and it was a fun experience. We kept up a long distance phone/text relationship after that and had he not been crazy, it might have worked out. ;-) He really is crazy. Certifiably. I ended things with him citing that we had different expectations. I expected him to be nice to me, and he expected me to tolerate his psychotic behavior. It just didn't work out. He has texted me about three times since then telling me he misses me. Whatever...

Then there was 'my guy'. He was so good to me and my kids and we had a great time together. He had been a friend for a couple of years too. Once we started dating we were inseperable. But for those who might remember, he was collateral damage when BF came back to me and told me he wanted to reconcile and build a life together. But my guy's story is the best of them all.

My guy was devastated when we broke up and I felt so bad. But it appears I was a stepping stone for him to find his love. Turns out he and one of my dearest friends started talking when we broke up (like 10 days later). And as they say, the rest is history. They now live together and he is the hero that she has been waiting for. He is great to her kids, who needed a daddy, and he is super affectionate which is exactly what she wanted. I still have to double take when I look at their profile pics on FB because it is a bit strange to me to see them together. But, they deserve all the happiness in the world, so I moved past it.

And finally, my favorite story for sick and twisted reasons. The firefighter. The man who pursued me and 'forgot' to mention that he was married. When I called him out on being married we stopped talking. However his last text message to me was "I think you're special." or something to that effect. Well... he accidentally sent that text message to his WIFE instead of me. And that my friends started the ball rolling.

He ended up confessing to her that he had stared a 'friendship' with me and she was clear with him that was inappropriate and it landed them in counseling. YAY! I have only spoken to him once since that text message exchange with me, but it was then that he told me about what had happened with his wife and he also apologized to me for not being truthful with me.

I am hopeful that this is a changing point in their relationship and that they can repair what had obviously not been working. I am so glad I had nothing to regret in that relationship. I was an unknowing player and got out before it got super ugly.

So there you have it. The rest of the story.

Re-reading all of the above makes me really realize how I am so glad that my story has ended how it has with BF. It is the ending I have always hoped for. And I am happy.