Sunday, November 25, 2012

Do the right thing when nobody's looking

I just picked up a pizza at our local pizza place.  You wouldn't think that would trigger an adoption related memory, but let's get real, anything can trigger a memory.  And here is what did it.

As I was standing at the carryout counter, I looked up and above the door to the manager's office, and in plain sight for those making pizzas there was a large sign that said "Do what is right when nobody's looking."

Such a great saying.  I love that the national pizza chain I was patronizing had those words posted in their place of business and I also liked that I could see it while standing there as a customer.  It reiterates what we know as the definition of character as stated by many including Mr. J.C Watts: "Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking."

A little back story for this post, it is important to know that I have been thinking for a couple of weeks about whether or not to post about the following story.  Up until today (actually until I saw the sign) I felt like I would continue to hold the story close to my chest.  It was just very personal to me.

You see, after my interview for the Open Adoption Bloggers project, a reader posted the following question to me on my blog.

Just read the interview you gave on the other side. Made me wonder...and I know I am probably asking an impossible question: When you look back now, are you able to identify any moments where you had a gut feeling that the A-parents would not continue in a fully open manner with you? Do you think it is possible to warn other potential birth mothers of certain behaviors, etc.? Or do you think there is no way to know in advance?
I know in my story--as lies and manipulation became clear to me (the attorney), I am able to look back and I know that I FELT she was untrustworthy--though I denied my intuition, obviously. I couldn't make an exact case for it, but I just felt it in my heart that I should not trust this person.
Just wondering if you are now able to identify any doubts you may have had prior--or if you felt totally secure.

My short answer to her would be this, I did not have any serious doubts in advance.  I felt a little twinge of insecurity when I mentioned the family bbq idea sometime that summer and they said nothing in return.  But I attributed that to us just not knowing what our relationship would look like.  I am certain that I was so convinced that what we were doing was the very best for this little girl that I was blinded by my good intentions to recognize any warning signs.  And let's be honest, we were all on our best behavior in our relationship at that time.  They would have never done or said anything to jeopardize their potential adoption at that point.  So to answer your question Jennifer, it's hard to tell how things are REALLY going to be when everyone is walking on eggshells, making sure they do not offend.

Now that I just typed that, I also remember one other thing that was just a little thing at the time, but should have been a big indicator.  I tried to friend the adoptive mom on FB after we had met and decided that they would be the parents of our child.  She declined my friend request.  I re-requested again later, also being declined.  Again, I attributed that to wanting to keep her personal life private, thinking that she was probably posting about how excited they were to be chosen to adopt.  I never asked her about it.  I probably should have...

So, that being said, what HAS happened since the adoption that significantly made me contemplate my relationship with Brit's adoptive parents is something that just happened a couple of months ago.  I did not post about it at the time, because I thought it would make me sound vindictive or whiny since I have been told that Brit's parents read my blog.  But now that the question has been posed and I just read the strange sign that speaks directly to this situation, I have decided that I will relay the story, because it was a very profound moment for me (and BF).

I needed to pick up something in my office one Saturday morning.  I work in an office located behind the door of a large community fitness center.  So when I walk from my office down to the main office of the building, I walk through the fitness center.  That Saturday morning I was distracted as I walked through the fitness center, with my head down looking at my phone. I don't even remember making eye contact with anyone working out.

I walked down the stairs in into the main office which was dark (because it was not a normal work day).  I stood behind the desk and continued to try to read a text message on my phone.  Now mind you, I am standing in the dark (not easily visible to a passerby), but I can see out past the front office counter which just had a pull down gate (similar to what you would see in a mall when a store is closed).

I happened to look up, and low and behold, who was coming down the stairs from the fitness center but Brit's adoptive dad.  However, he was not just walking down the stairs, he was sneaking down the stairs.  Looking left and right like a panicked man.  He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and peeked around the corner to make sure no one was there and he BOOKED it out the front door.  You would have sworn he saw a ghost, or maybe a hit man.  Either way, he was on the run, and it was obvious.  His workout had been cut short and he needed to get the heck out of there.

Yes, Brit's dad was running from me.  That panicked look on his face was because he was afraid I might have seen him lifting weights in the fitness center and I might possibly come back and talk to him.

It took me a minute to fully process what had just happened.

The man who I trusted to adopt my daughter was doing everything in his power to avoid me.

I had a few of reactions all within a matter of seconds.  The first was to be horrified.  The second was to cry at the betrayal. The third was to chase after him and REALLY make him uncomfortable.  But I went with my final, most reasonable reaction and I called BF.

As I relayed the story to BF, I actually started to chuckle.  It was just so preposterous to me that this physically huge man was terrified of a 5' 5" woman who didn't really even know he was there.  I can't remember the exact words I used with BF, but I know his response to me was along the lines of he was glad that Brit's dad reacted like that, because at least it acknowledges that he must recognize that they way they treat us is not OK and engaging in conversation with me is probably a very horrifying thought.

But COME ON, what did he think I was going to do in a public place like a community fitness center?  Especially the place I WORK?  Was he afraid I would create a scene? (I never have.)  Was he afraid I might bring up anything personal about our relationship? (I never have any other time we have crossed paths at the grocery store.)  Every interaction he has ever had with me in public has been cool and non-threatening.  I don't cry, or focus on Brit.  I simply ask him how their family is doing and I share what we have been up to.  Nothing different than I would say to any other acquaintance I might run into at the same store.

That moment made a huge impact on me.  It spoke volumes about how Brit's parents perceive us.  We are a threat.  And we are to be avoided at all costs.

Makes you wonder what will happen someday when they are walking down the grocery aisle with Brit and they spot us on the other end.


Anonymous said...


I don't know how it is possible to be so flabbergasted at their behaviour after everything else - but that is so beyond ridiculous.

Hon, there will be a day that Britt is walking down the aisle with them and when she sees the beautiful woman smiling at her and asks who she is their answer is going to carry such impact. What she will remember though - is your smile and when she come to you when she's older asking all the "why" questions the truth will have to come out.

Sending you love.

Deb said...

This is horrifying. That they can treat you this way and see you as a threat. What in the world do they think you are going to do??? They clearly should never have agreed to an open adoption and must not have had any training on the topic. (I am sorry if that sounds offensive towards them.)
It's sad that waiting adoptive parents often times think they have to lie about their comfort with openness in their desire to have parents. I am so very sorry.

J said...

It sounds like the solution, from their perspective, would be to move away. But then if Brit is the apple of her grandparents eye, how likely would that be I wonder...

It is just so strange. I wonder what exactly they're scared of. I'd love to know. I'd also love to know how they'll try to explain this all to Brit... will they lie about her being adopted (so hard to do with social media, you'd find her and tell her one day). Will they lie about you and make you out to be awful people (hard to do with the paper trail of evidence you have)... or will they simply create an atmosphere so unwelcoming of any discussion of adoption that she can never wonder aloud? And even that runs the risk of driving her towards you, the very thing they don't want.

And if they're so scared of you why do they do yearly visits?

It's one of the stranger adoption situations I've heard of. I'd love to understand their logic.

Thanks for sharing... you're helping so many prospective adoptive parents, adoptive parents and expectant parents considering placement.

Anne said...

Just shaking my head...that behavior was beyond ridiculous.

Kara Elizabeth said...

Great post. Thank you for sharing. I believe in the end of this journey your on, everybodys true colors will shine.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I've been wondering for a while, how do they know about your blog? Did someone tell them about it? They have major issues that they really need to deal with in therapy - that's for sure.

Vertical Mom said...

I hope they DO see this post! It makes me angry. My son's A-parents would NEVER NEVER NEVER treat me that way in a million years. In fact, when Jedi was small, they attended the same church as my aunt and uncle. We went to a performance of The Messiah there one year for Christmas and I didn't feel well in the middle so we ended up leaving early. I received a letter from his mom a few weeks later telling me how sad she was that they didn't get to see me. They wanted me to see how much Jedi had grown and how well he was doing. Brit's parents are being RIDICULOUS and I pray, for their own sakes, that they don't teach Brit to be fearful like they are. It will only come back to bite them when she's grown >:-(

LisaAnne said...

I don't know how they found out about my blog. At first I wondered the same, but as I have thought about it more I have decided it doesn't really matter. If they know about it and read it, then that is on them.

Since they have no substantial interaction with us, I hope that this blog gives them a little insight to what we struggle with on our side.

More than anything, I will keep blogging no matter who is reading, because some day I want dear sweet Brit to understand how much we longed and begged for a relationship with her from the very beginning.

I hope it is clear to Brit that we would have done absolutely anything to be allowed to have a relationship with her. I want her to know how desperately we wanted to know her and be there for her all these years.

We are doing our part. We are available, stable, and respectful to their family unit.

But as a sweet adoptive mother I know once told me, "There is nothing more threatening than a well-balanced birth family."

I think that is what we are dealing with here.

Someday Brit will know. She will read these words. She will hear the story and she will have to piece together what she heard from her parents and what we have been saying all along.

I have saved every email they have ever sent us. I have every email we have ever sent them. I take photos of every card we mail and each gift we send. I want Brit to know we were here all along and loving her from a distance in the only ways that we are allowed.

Therapy would be great for all of us. We have offered many times to pay for all of us to go. They have declined. There is only so much we can do.

Deb said...

As an adoptive parent with a stable birth family it's the biggest blessing. We don't have any concerns for our daughter spending time with her birth family. We have spent the night at their house on visits due to distance many times as well.
I hope and pray that Brit's adoptive parents can see that you are not a threat to them. To me is really does sound like they are just trying to hide the fact that she is adopted from her, which is the worst thing they can do for her to grow up living a lie.

Stephanie said...

WOW. Why do people adopt and chose OPEN adoption if they are going to behave this way? It is so utterly apparent that they never wanted any openness with you, if you walk by them, not even being aware of their presence sends them into such a panic.

I ran into my son's adoptive mother when he was five, coming out of a place where I was working. It freaked me out just as much as it freaked her out. I was literally in shock and so uncomfortable, but the look on her face when she saw me told me everything that I needed to know. They disdained me. The sweet, saccharine, "nice" woman I met when I was pregnant was gone, replaced by a hateful, cold woman who wanted nothing to do with me. There was no hug, no "so glad to see you", nothing.

Funny that not long after that I ceased to receive the promised updates I was promised until he was 18. I am sure that was one of many reasons they cut me off...

I hope so many young vulnerable women read this blog and see what open adoption is really about. THIS is the most representative story of open adoption, not the bogus BS baby brokers and their customers try to convince you of...

Anonymous said...

I'm so, so sorry. It's awful what has happened. I hadn't looked in on your blog in a long time---since things were going well---and I hate to see what's happened to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

You know, the inquirer asks a very good question.
I too had absolutely no indication that there were any issues, that is until the TPR was all signed.
The second day after W left with them, I had a panic attack and begged for them to let me send my milk to them at no charge. I would pay all the costs and ensure it would be properly shipped.
I could not fathom how they would not accept what has been proven over and over to be the best for him. This was supposed to be 'ABOUT HIM'.
The second thing that happened was while we were attending an 'open adoption' conference I invited Amom to (I was paying for hotel, all she needed to do was pay the $40 registration fee and drive a couple hours). We were sitting in this session listening to an Amom speak about how the openness was the best thing for the child, and that it was hard for the natural mother, as she didn't want to relinquish, but they never stopped the visits, no matter how difficult it was. I remember vividly the story about how at 7 years old, after a visit with his natural mother, their son was riding in the back of the vehicle and was staring out at his first mom's vehicle following behind, and suddenly, when her car turned off he went into a panic attack, and freaked out about why she wasn't coming with them. That was a difficult story for me to listen to. To hear that this could possibly be something my son will go through. It was heartbreaking. Anyway, after the session people were fascinated that we were both there 'together' at this conference listening and learning about open adoption. After the session, I had mentioned something about celebrating W's birthday - and got the same response as you did Lisa - nothing. No acknowledgement of what I had just said, just silence. I had a pang go through my heart, but I didn't want to believe it would happen.
But, it did. They've decided to go to sending pictures twice a year now - which apparently was their 'original semi-open adoption plan', of course, I knew nothing of this until a month ago, when the agency read me 'their statement'.
I requested her to send it to me in writing, but of course - she wouldn't. She said that they 'requested she read it to me'.
Because they know one day, it will all come out in the wash.

We will keep speaking our truths and telling our stories, and writing to our children in hopes that one day, they return to us.

Hopefully, they won't be poisoned against us. Which I hear is oh-so-common in these types of situations.

Love you girl, glad you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

P.S. Tell BF to hurry up and put a ring on it.

Anonymous said...

And then Brit grows up into a 20-year old who ducks around corners and ignores your emails, because after all, she saw the exact behavior modeled by her "real" parents. After being inculcated by the likes of her adoptive parents, Brit may possibly grow into a woman who is scared and fearful of having a relationship with you, because after all, she was taught to fear you, to be scared of what you represent.

How do I know? Because I have walked down this path for going on 21 years. I am that "stable birth family" Deb spoke of, one that can should be trusted not feared, embraced and included in our daughter's life not shunned, ignored, marginalized, and forgotten.

However, that is how my daughter's adoptive parents treated me as she was growing up and that is how she treats me now.

It doesn't matter what I have accomplished in my life, what level of success I have obtained financially, how many degrees I have earned, my activity in religious and civic organizations, the quality of my parenting and relationships with my other children or the strength of my marriage. What matters to her adoptive parents is I am a "threat" and that is what they taught my daughter - they taught her to be scared of me.

THANK GOD I was finally able to move away from that area of the world and break free from the constant worry of running into them at the local library or Costco and being ignored or worse yet, having a similar experience to the one you describe happen again to me - having my daughter or her parents see me in the dairy section and then quickly make a U-turn with their cart and bee-line it for the door, abandoning their intended purchase as they flee the scene, as if I were some kind of monster.

Gotta love adoption. It's the gift that keeps giving...and taking.

Anonymous said...

I am crying as I read this. I am an adoptive parent of a two year old baby girl and never think about how her birth parents must be feeling. I am heartbroken for you Lisa.

MommySquared said...

Lisa this made me cry ... {{hugs}} my friend I am so sorry that this is still going on that they have not made any movement to having a real relationship for you with Brit ...

BumbersBumblings said...

This overwhelmingly appalled me! As an adoptive parent of now two children, I'm completely horrified at this behavior. What are they soo afraid of? It's just downright sad. I really hope that it is true that they read your blog so they can see what sad, insecure lives they are living and how they are depriving themselves of such a rewarding experience for themselves and ultimately their daughter.

Terri said...

I'm so sorry. Another stable-as-most-folks birth/first parent here who understands.

ROBYN Chittister said...

I'm an adoptive mom who found your blog through the Open Adoption Interview Project. I started to comment on this post and some of the comments, but it got too long, so I wrote a blog post about it:

All of that said, I think how your daughter's adoptive parents are behaving is appalling. I hope someday soon they realize how important you are to and for Brit.

Anonymous said...

I'm an adoptive parent who would love it if our son's birthmother was stable. As it is, we rarely hear from her (even if we repeated try to contact her by various means.) Promised calls never come. He's only 2 now, so we hope that things will get better as he gets older so that we CAN have a relationship.
My heart breaks for you!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I can't believe you would voluntarily give up your baby to someone who wouldn't even add you as a friend on facebook - my mind is boggling at this. I genuinely wonder if you and BRit's father had temporarily lost control of your senses?

I thank God that I live in the UK and this kind of thing could NEVER happen. There is no such thing as a private adoptions in the UK. Further, parental rights cannot be relinquished for a minimum of 6 weeks after birth. Any "private" agreement would be void so this situation would not happen. However, social services would be appalled at what had happened and both you and Brit's father would be subject to rigorous investigation in respect of your parenting of your children you chose to keep. I'm not sure Brit would be returned to your care.

I hoe very much for your lovely little girl's sake that you were just hopelessly naive but your apparent total lack of care in carefully discussing the adoption is negligent in the extreme even of an open adoption agreement isn't legally bi ding, why on earth didn't you at least draw up some heads of terms so you could have flushed these issues out? Honestly - in the UK - you would be expected to take more care rehoming a dog

This is a totally ghastly situation for everyone involved and an absolute case in point as to why private adoption should not be permitted

As a final point, I've only read some of your blog but your
relationship with your boyfriend sounds abusive and you clearly have some self esteem issues.

I truly hope that your counselling can help you with this