I just love getting to know new people and this year was no exception. Traathy at Happily Ever After has been a complete delight getting to know. She gets open adoption. Totally gets it.
Traathy is the adoptive mom to a 9 month old little girl who was adopted at birth. Traathy and her daughter's birth mother have an exceptionally open adoption. They talk regularly, share meals together and have even attended family events together. They treat each other as extended family.
I wish that Canada and the US Midwest weren't so far apart because I want to hang out with Traathy in real life! If you would like to see my interview responses to Traathy they can be found here.
Sit back with a cold drink, because Traathy and I had lots of questions for each other.
1. Your perspective on being pregnant and having a child seems a bit atypical compared to other bloggers who talk about the yearning to have a biological child and the lifelong struggle to suppress those feelings and just enjoy their path to becoming a parent through adoption. You almost seem to hold a grudge toward being pregnant since it never resulted in a viable pregnancy for you. Is that an accurate assessment? Do you think that someday you might change your stance find yourself dealing with the ugliness of infertility again, or do you think you have processed that and have moved on?
It's totally an accurate assessment. I'll be brutally honest - I hated everything about being pregnant and still have feelings that somehow I caused everything to go wrong with Jacob because of the lack of respect I had for being pregnant. I was one of those "all my friends are having babies so it looks like I'm up next" girls. It sounds trite and probably is. Truth is, once she died, it was this psychotic race in my head to try to get pregnant again and I truly didn't grieve for her until almost a year later - once we began the adoption process and three additional shitty miscarriages later. You see, starting the process for adopting was like such a lightbulb. We were never going to have a biological baby in the traditional way in first place and to this day I can't believe everything we went through to get right back to where we started almost two years earlier. New readers can read about that here: http://theyalllived.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/how-to-start-a-blog/
It sounds like bs, but I always was ok with never being a biological mom because of the circumstances of how my husband and I started dating. However, having gotten to 22 weeks with her and never feeling her kick is something that makes me catch my breath and tear up. When I see pregnant bellies, that's what I wonder about...what does that feel like?
We'll never try again. About a year ago we wound out that apparently I'm in Peri-Menapause. Sorta a joke finding out that four pregnancies later. A) I wouldn't dare fuck with our DNA baby genes again and B) I'm finally happy. Truly and completely :)
2. You have the kind of open adoption that my heart desires. You obviously embraced the concept that there cannot be too many people who love your child and who can be involved in her life. It is also obvious that your family does not have this same philosophy of open adoption. As far as I can tell from your blog you have lived that kind of openness from the beginning. Most people I have come to know have grown into their open relationships over time. You are already living complete openness and your child isn’t even a year old. How did you come to this belief system?
Both feet in. I honestly believe when we said we were "open" it was because we honestly could not fathom ever dealing with anything as horrible as what we had already been through. We both said if we do this (adopting) we do EVERYTHING for this baby to be happy, healthy, and loved by all. No matter what the circumstances of her history is. Still holds true. I know I'm going to open a can of worms with this statement but I truly believe there is a huge difference between parents who adopt who've been through infertility and those who have been through infant loss and death & miscarriages.
I knew first hand what it felt like to walk out of the hospital without my baby (boobs leaking milk and nobody to feed). I knew that emotional pain. I am in no way comparing the loss to be the same but I knew that feeling. I have a respect for our birthmom to the sky and back. She gave me a life to care for. I'll give her whatever she needs to be secure in that decision forever. No matter how many times I have to clean my floors before she comes over ;)
3. What do you envision the relationship between Lil K and her sister O looking like over time?
They are so cute together right now. O is four and such a sweetie. Since finding out Lil K was her sister she's soooooo protective of her. We were out to lunch a few weeks back and she would NOT let anyone else hold her!! "She's my sister" she kept saying :)
I think because of proximity and the fact that we see each other about once a month they'll probably grow up like cousins (or so I hope). Lise's little sister is 20 and has a year and a half year old daughter who is so close in age with Lil K that they will probably have more of a cousin relationship until thy can start building relationships on their own. Lise's eldest brother and his wife are due soon with their first child so Lil K will have cousins all around. That makes me the happiest. I can't give her that. But she has it so long as I work hard to build those relationships.
4. What do you call Lise when you refer to her to Lil K? How would you feel if at age 8 Lil K decided to start calling Lise by a different name, such as Mama Lise? Does Lise refer to Lil K as her daughter? If not, would it be hard for you if she did?
I call her Lise and when I talk to Lil K about her birth family I use all other normal family language. Grandpa B, Grandma B! Auntie, uncle etc....that's what they are.
Although, I overheard Lise mention that she told a friend of hers that Lil K was her niece when asked about a picture on FB. Interesting......as I mentioned in my last blog post, I have a feeling things will change over time and I've just got to be open to how it plays out. I'll always be honest with Lil K but if Lise is comfortable calling herself her aunt right now in public, it's ok. Time changes perspective. We'll get more comfortable as we go.
5. Does Lise know about your blog?
Nope. Never felt the need to share that. It's my story from my perspective. I don't have anything to hide or feel I've been hurtful so I don't think it'd be an issue but...it's my space. Same with my FB, sometimes I like being an ass and as such I don't have my mom on FB either ;)
6. Assuming that Lise continues to be a positive influence in the life of your daughter, do you think that you would continue to maintain and help Lil K cultivate a relationship with Lise even if she becomes a moody teenager who decides she doesn’t want to have a relationship with her birthfamily? And what if Lise’s life completely falls apart and she is NOT a positive role model for Lil K, how do you think you would handle that?
I can't predict the future but this I know....Lil K's birth family rocks!!!!! I freaking love them. After our first family dinner with them we left and we like "why couldn’t we have them as family a long time ago!!!"
So regardless, they are family will be there even if I have to strap a whining teenager in the car.
If Lise's life fell apart, I'd hope to be there like any family member to help as I could. Like any parent though, when it comes to your kids you protect them. The benefit to embracing Lise's ENTIRE family is that we are all there for her together. So positive or not, you deal with what life throws at you. Case and point, my husband’s sister is a drug addict. She's using again and I told her flat out that once she cleans herself up I'd be happy to have her over to see Lil K. Until then, no way. You gotta draw the line somewhere and harm to self and others is a deal breaker for me.
7. One of my favorite parts about your blog is that you talk about how relationships are hard. And even when they are hard, you push through. You don’t pull back, instead you seem to push forward and figure it out. Many adoptive parents don’t seem to have that philosophy. I know as a birthmother I worry about saying the wrong thing or asking for anything because I fear that I will cause them to further restrict my access to our daughter. I worry that if we don’t see eye to eye about our relationship that they will say this is too hard and close it down completely. I have seen that happen all too often, as a matter of fact just last week one of my closest birthmother friends had her open adoption close because the adoptive parents didn’t like that their son’s birthmother has become an advocate for adoption reform (they see this as anti-adoption and feel like it is detrimental to their child – who I might add is only 2 and has no clue!). So this questions is much like the question about your philosophy of complete openness in adoption, but what makes you push through when things are hard or awkward? What if Lise says something that hurts you?
I know hands down from logic, emotion, to just a plain gut feeling - there is nothing I won't do for my baby. I push because it is the right thing to do. I push because I know Lise is so unbelievably shy. I push because that girl with no self confidence, relying on men to fill the void was me. Back then, I would have given anything for somebody to care. Lise has already pushed some buttons of mine. I'm honest to a fault. Just tell me the truth and it is ok. She's lying about the circumstances of her pregnancy and who the father is. Either to me or her family. I don't know who. It bugs the crap out of me that I am now doubting her but like I wrote about recently, that is her story. I have to accept it and move on with the positive. Shit happens, people piss me, but I know what is important at the end of the day. Family. As ridiculous as they are and trust me - we've got more crazy on our side any day if the week ;)
8. Do you have any boundaries that you and your husband have determined as non-negotiable with relation to your adoption?
No harm to self or others. That's it.
9. WHY IN THE WORLD DO YOU STILL WORRY ABOUT WHETHER YOUR HOUSE IS SPOTLESS WHEN LISE COMES OVER?!?!?!? Lol I think it is absolutely a testament to your character that it still matters to you how Lise perceives you.
She's new!!!! I do the same for one of my crazy sister in law from out of town. New family. She can inhale the dog hair a few years down the road ;)
10. I don’t know what real question I have here, but I suppose this is more of a compare and contrast.
By far my favorite post that I have read from your blog is the one about your public speaking debut http://theyalllived.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/my-public-speaking-debut/
I fell head over heels in love with you at that moment when you said this…
“At one point a woman in the audience asked the first couple when they felt comfortable allowing the birth family into their house.
The couple answered with “Oh god no. We don’t do that”.
This is after they originally told the audience how they felt that their birth families (they have 2 adopted children) were like to them and that they would do anything for them.
Except open their front door.
*** I feel the need to note, I realize I’m being judgmental and that every adoptive situation is different, but I was so upset that the audience seemed relieved to know that they have to open their doors to birth families. And, you don’t, but god, I wanted them to know that it is OKAY!!!!!
They explained that their openness agreement stated that they were to do monthly updates, send pictures on a certain date, and meet once a month at a predetermined location and that everyone was happy with that.”
Just yesterday I read an article that was very similar to this. Like you, I wanted to scream at the computer screen and find this author and shake her until she came to her senses (probably not a politically correct thing to do, but for Pete’s sake, THIS IS WHY ADOPTIVE PARENTS BELIEVE WHAT THEY BELIEVE!) http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=2035
How can we get people to understand that open adoption is not about the ADULTS feeling comfortable? But open adoption is about giving our children every possible resource to be happy, healthy and well adjusted, even if that includes welcoming another family into your life.
I am frightened by what
most some agencies tell potential
adoptive couples. It seems to be all about creating happy clients, not
necessarily about doing what is right for CHILDREN.
What is your perspective on this? Do you think it is possible to change an entire society’s perception about open adoption if we can’t even influence our own families and friends?
This is a tough one. The thing is our agency here in Vancouver told us up front the massive benefits of what an open adoption can create for all involved. It was intimidating at first because it was all literature that I read at first. No "real life" experiences. It wasn't until I started searching for stories online that I discovered what open adoption (NOT semi) meant. I know it's a small step but I really feel like there is a different mindset in Canada towards open adoption. It is VERY common and the language is used all the time. The reason I am able to compare is because we were also considering adopting from the states (thinking that it would take less time) and not ONCE did the lawyer we spoke with mention open adoption. He talked a lot about the counseling his people encouraged birth mothers to seek but never mentioned what relationship could exist beyond knowledge of who we were. I know that's only two examples but from what I've read there seems to be a lack of educating adoptive parents about what openness really can mean. Most people (and I admit we too were scared) jump to the negative and can't focus on what openness really means for the child. You are absolutely right, it is about the comfort of the child not the adoptive parents. There really does need to be mandatory counseling for all adoptive parents so a realistic portrayal can be made of what relationships can exist when the benefit of the child comes first.
When I spoke at our adoptive parent panel I made that very clear. I truly think all potential adoptive parents need to experience speaking with other adoptive parents as part of their home study process. I'd also be so important for their close family to be involved. God, I wish I had brought my mom to the panels I went to. At least she would save been exposed to the differences of all areas of adoption so she wouldn't have such a hard time with us being so familial with our birth family. It really is such an impact on all family involved so why not make one of the home study visits to include other members as a discussion or q&a night? A thought...
Society as a whole...I don't know. When you've got so many celebrities coming home with babies who have no history (that is described) I don't know how we can change the perception that open adoption can not only benefit everyone but that it can be as wonderful as adding so much more love to your family. It's hard and I can only hope these sorts of blog days get passed on to mainstream media to spotlight.