I tend to not spend a lot of time in the world of What If. It’s a useless game to play, especially when it comes to J. It doesn’t help me deal with my relationship with him, it doesn’t help deal with my grief in not parenting him and it doesn’t change anything. So I have learned to just not really think about it.
But then sometimes I have these days, days like this weekend where I can’t help but recognize that I would have been an awesome Mom. I believe that fully.
I spent a portion of today at a three year old’s birthday party. This is a child I’ve spent a lot of time with recently, his Mom is my good friend and has been dealing with child care issue’s so I’ve been baby-sitting for him about once a week. And as a normal three year old, he was full into screaming and knocking things over and running around the restaurant. And then there would be these moments, since I wasn’t real close to many of the adults at the party (except my friend) there was a large portion of the party where I sort of hung out with the three year old, where I interacted with him in different ways. Sometimes I played gate keeper making sure he didn’t escape to another part of the restaurant. Other times I helped him clean off his frosting covered hands before he played with toys. And once or twice I would get him to stop screaming by talking to him about what he was thinking about. And during some of these moments I would think “I would have been good at this, I would have been a damn good Mom.”
I know that being a Mom is more than the things I was doing today and I’m not trying to say that spending a couple hours with a child is anywhere near being a Mom (especially spending time with a child when there’s about 20 other adults present). But days like today I can imagine what it would have been like, what I would have been like, and I just know I would have been good.
I turned 34 a few weeks ago, and although I’m sure I could still have another child at some later date, I’ve also begun to realize that there’s a pretty decent shot that it’s just not going to happen – let’s face it, meeting a good guy and getting serious enough with him to even consider having a child together isn’t going to happen tomorrow. And frankly that’s a real shame if I don’t have another child, because I know I would be a good mother. But it might just not be my reality, not the way my life played out.
It’s moments like that where I realize how difficult it can be to watch a thing you want most in the world disappear from your grasp. I know how hard that can be. I want to scream and yell about how the world isn’t fair, how it shouldn’t be this way.
But the world isn’t fair. It’s just not.
Personally, I think the only way I can deal with a world that seems so unfair to me is to find a way to prevent unfairness to someone else. That means making sure other women who are pregnant and would be amazing Moms get the chance to, even if they are alone in the world, even if they don’t feel like they have the support to do it. But much the way I felt during my pregnancy, the systematic problems our country has created in not supporting new families feels way too big to overcome, I don’t know how to even make a drop in that giant bucket. So instead I think maybe I’ll focus on the unfairness of the kids who don’t have families to take care of them, the kids in foster care who have experienced how unfair the world can be. Truthfully when I think how unfair the world seems to me, it seems a million more times unfair for kids who are hurting because of the mistakes of their parents and of a system that seems to forget about them.
I found an organization that I think I’m going to volunteer at (assuming they’ll have me). I can’t start quite yet, there’s some big life changes happening with me in the next couple of months and I need to get past those first, but come this fall I think I need to do this. If for nothing else, I need to feel like I’m doing something positive in this world and making the world just a little less unfair for someone else.
I just realized the last time I posted was almost a month ago. I have a few things I actually want to write about (and maybe will get to in the next little bit) but I figure before that I should just put a sort of update out there.
As I sat down today to write this post I started thinking of all the things that had happened in my life since that last post. A lot has happened. And yet a lot hasn’t changed at all.
I’m still here, still dealing with a lot of random stuff with my jobs. There’s a pretty decent chance I’ll be changing one of my jobs in the next month or two. The change should be a positive one, but like everything in life nothing is completely good or completely bad. What I think the biggest change will be with this is for the last 5 years my major focus has been job #2, even though I put in more hours at job #1, it’s the second job where I check emails incessantly, make sure I respond to emails even at night or on weekends, where I worry about it all the time, it’s a big focus in my life. This new job (which would replace job #1) would require much more of my focus which would keep me from being able to expend as much time thinking about job #2 as I have been. I think in a lot of ways this would be a positive thing for me but a huge change. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing. But for now I’m waiting to hear what’s going to happen for sure.
And then there’s everything else. My birthday came and went, I did end up going to M&P’s house for a dinner there with some of their friends and family. J (with the help of his Dad) made me a birthday cake. It was really nice. We are also on schedule to see each other at our agency’s summer picnic this coming weekend (if you happen to be a person who reads my blog and is going to said event please let me know, I would love to see you). There’s also talk (although no actual date) of a get together between M&P and J, myself and another gay couple who adopted and their child and child’s birth mom (did you get that, basically it would be my family and another family that looks like ours). I know the other birth mom and we’ve been talking about setting something up, I hope it happens this summer, I think it would be really good on a lot of fronts.
The other thing on the adoption front which happened is I went to a screening of the movie Breeders in NYC. It’s a movie about surrogacy and was interesting and strange in many ways. I have more to say about this, and about my feelings on this, and hopefully I can come back to it in the near future.
Outside of that specific instance and anything J related there’s been a sort of backseat with adoption in my life. I (obviously) haven’t been blogging about it much, I haven’t been actively seeking out people to talk to about it. I’ve been sort of coasting. In general I haven’t pursued the same level of adoption stuff. I’m not totally sure why, I guess in part I am realizing how little growth I’ve had in other parts of my life in the last four years. In ways I’ve sort of become a hermit, not really expanding my friend circle much and not really making time to expand myself. I have hid behind my jobs, the fact I work a lot, but the reality is in many ways I’ve gotten overwhelmed by adoption and let it envelope my life.
My guess is this isn’t uncommon in open adoptions, when I’m just beginning the first stages of healing and recovering for all I’ve gone through and regularly I’m faced with trying to walk the tightrope of a relationship with my son. It’s a lot. So I spent a lot of time trying to find my voice, to tell my story, to meet people who I could talk to. But here’s the thing, if that’s all I allow in my life, it will be pretty empty.
The truth is my son will always be the priority to me. But that doesn’t mean adoption has to be the only thing in my life. I can have a healthy relationship with my son, and still have a healthy version of myself. I’m pretty sure I’m not there, but maybe I can work towards that. So that’s one of my goals for this next year, get my non-adoption life in order and back to where I want it to be. I don’t know exactly what that will mean, maybe starting to volunteer again (I found an organization I really want to volunteer with), maybe making an effort to reconnect to friends I’ve let slip away, or something as simple as making plans every weekend to see people again.
So that’s where I’m at. Hope you all are having a great summer.
Yesterday I was full of gratitude. It was Father’s Day and so of course I thought a lot about M&P and how tremendous they have been as parents, they have helped J become this amazing little boy and I’m just grateful for them as parents. And as I spent time yesterday trying to write them and tell them how grateful I was on Father’s Day, before I could hit send on the email I got a text from them making me grateful all over again.
You see, I hadn’t heard much from M&P since mid-May. The first couple of weeks of May for me so much, so many visits, so much time together, they want to include me in everything and I want to be included, so I saw them often in a short span of time. But I think we all needed a break after that, even after four years, concentrated time together can still be emotionally taxing. So I haven’t heard from them for a month, and they haven’t heard from me. Until yesterday when I got a text from them at the same time that I had a window open writing them an email.
Their text was asking me if they could take me out to dinner for my birthday next weekend.
This felt momentous. I guess mostly because they haven’t ever really said anything about my birthday before.
When J was first born we had our first visit the day after my birthday, I requested our first visit be connected to my birthday, after he was born I couldn’t imagine not having him present to celebrate with. Only that year they couldn’t actually do anything with me on my birthday so we pushed it a day. But that day they didn’t really say anything, they might have said a happy birthday by the end of the night, but it definitely wasn’t a big deal. After that year I didn’t request visits around my birthday, although the next three years we always had a visit sometime in June it was usually early in the month and never connected to my birthday. Last year our visit was to the zoo the weekend before my birthday and I told J that my birthday was coming up. He excitedly told his Dads who mentioned that they could call me on my birthday so J could sing to me. It didn’t actually happen and for me reinforced that one of the things we just haven’t really celebrated is my birthday.
But this year they want to take me out to dinner. Not on my birthday (and honestly I would be surprised if they knew what day my actual birthday is), but for my birthday. And that’s a big deal for me. It means a great deal that they would make time close to my birthday to celebrate with me, that they would give my son a chance to wish me a happy birthday.
So yesterday I was so extremely grateful to them. And then last night I had this crazy dream about them. If I try to explain in detail what happened in my dream I know it won’t make any sense (my dreams rarely do). But the gist of it was that M&P lived in a building with my boss, and that building was turning into an airport, and the building itself was moving to where the airport was now, which was White Plains, NY. So M&P (and my boss) were all moving away, not far enough where they wouldn’t work in the city, but far enough where they didn’t live in the city. And I was so upset, so distraught. I started talking to my boss’s daughter who lives with her Mom half the week and with my boss the other half and asked her how she felt about it. She talked about how this would make it impossible for her relationship to continue like it has been. We both sat there sad until I woke up.
It’s not hard to see what this dream means. After a day where I felt so grateful for M&P as parents, and the place they choose to make for me in their life and in J’s life, I dreamt about our relationship significantly changing. I know there’s a possibility they might move one day. I doubt it will because their apartment building is turning into an airport, but moving away from the city limits is always a possibility. And would significantly change our relationship. And if they do decide to leave NYC, I won’t have a vote. That is my reality.
The good news is I think that decision to leave wouldn’t be something M&P would take lightly, I know my presence here would be part of their decision making process. But I don’t believe (nor have ever believed) that what is best for my relationship with J will always equate to what is best for their family. I realize they have a whole list of priorities for their family and it’s their jobs as the adults in charge of that family to figure out how to balance the priorities. I do hope I’m not at the bottom of their list of priorities, that I’m someplace closer to the top rather than the bottom of their list. But at the end of the day I know the fact that I’m on that list is actually the most important detail.
The truth is on even the best day with my son I never fully forget this could be a temporary relationship, that life could easily get in the way in the worst possible way. But instead of being crippled by the fear of what could happen, today I choose to always remember that I cannot take this relationship for granted, ever, because I have no idea what path we’re on and how the future will unfold.
As the month of May (by far my hardest month adoption wise) drew to a close there was a flurry of adoption related events that seemed to want my attention the last couple of days of May and the first few days of June, it was like they knew I was trying to let May fade away and decided to not let me. One of those events was hosted by Land of Gazillion Adoptees and Lost Lit and was a collection of people who were connected to adoption who wrote letters and then read them for the us the audience. It sounded like an incredibly cool way to hear people’s different perspective on adoption (and it was) in my own backyard. Upon RSVPing for the event I heard from the host that I should create my own letter and bring it with me, that they would put aside time at the end to have the audience read letters as well.
I totally didn’t write my own letter. I thought about it, I even started writing a letter of sorts in my head (a letter to J took shape on the train ride to the event). But I hadn’t put a pen to paper, I had nothing written down. Then I got to the event and listened to these adoptees and adoptive parents read their letters and after hearing one letter in particular I completely threw out what I had thought my letter would be about and came up with a new idea, a letter to JD (my son’s biological father). I had blogged a letter to him before but it was years ago and so much has changed since then.
So the group who were reading finished and the audience portion started. I contemplated raising my hand, getting up and talking, that is until the first person stood and read her letter. Yes she read it, it was written down on a piece of paper. She had followed directions. As did the next probably ten people who got up that evening and read from the audience. All had their letters written down like they were supposed to. All had prepared. I didn’t recite the letter swirling in my head, I knew I would just start babbling and taking time to go off the cuff in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know in a venue where I think I was the only birth parent present, well it stopped sounding like something I wanted to do. So I didn’t.
But this week my twitter feed started seeing links to the latest issue of Gazillion Voices where they published the letters. I once again read the letter that David Amarel read to the other fathers of his kids and it made me want to finally put down the words that had been swirling in my head again (even though it’s odd, I’m writing this letter like it was in my head the 28th of May, I know it’s June just bear with me). I know I’m a little early for Father’s Day….
As May draws to a close I have thought a lot about you. I know it’s been a good nine months since the last time I saw you, the last time we talked. I know I’m probably just a shadow to you now, not even a current memory, with other things going on in your life I doubt you spend much time thinking about me, about our complicated relationship. But I do hope that this past month that our son at least flickered across your mind, this month where our little boy turned 4.
Two years ago when we had breakfast on Mother’s Day, when I told you it was also J’s birthday and we spent time talking about him, I had an ulterior motive for my visit that day. I’m sure you thought it was my way of dealing with my sadness that day, I wanted to reach out to you because I thought seeing you would alleviate some of the loss. I guess that was a little bit of it, but truthfully I wanted to make sure you knew when your son’s birthday was, I wanted to forever tie his birthday to Mother’s Day. I figured if I was able to tie the two together then maybe a Mother’s Day wouldn’t pass without you thinking about him. Maybe even if you didn’t remember whether his birthday was on the 9th or the 15th (it’s actually on the 13th) that at least you would know it was around then. I hope that my plan works, that every year as you see the commercials on TV and the displays in the drug stores that for one moment you add up the years and remember how old your son is, that you glance around to find a child about that age, that you picture him as a combination of you and me in your head, that you don’t forget about him.
I look at him every time I’m in the same room as him and I’m always struck by how much he resembles you. It’s funny because I often get the opposite comment, the one where people say “oh he looks just like you”. I think it’s that he has blue eyes like mine. But the shape of his eyes, his nose, they are all you. When I see his curly brown hair and his skin that seems always tan I know those are because of you – my side of the family is filled with freckles and blond-haired children. I see you in his love of music, in his athletic prowess, in his ability to charm everyone he meets. A couple visits ago I rode the bus with him and watched him strike up conversations about flamingos and hawks with several people on the bus. They were enthralled with this little kid and at the time I was struck by how much he was a mini version of you in that moment – the guy who can talk to anyone.
This past year more than ever before it’s become obvious to me that J has a big part of you in him. It makes me sad to see it sometimes, because if you don’t get to know J, then I will be the only person in his life that knows you and knows him. Actually I’m probably the only person in the entire world that knows you both. You would get such a kick out of this kid. Last month as I listened to him tell this super complicated story about his lego robber breaking out of the lego police transport vehicle and in the process locking up the lego police officer, I thought about what a kick you would get out of his imagination and story telling. He also has this amazing knack as a negotiator, when most three-year olds would throw a tantrum he starts figuring out what he can offer (usually something he would do anyway) to get what he wants, and when I see him start his negotiations I hear you. I see when he is leagues above his fellow kids in physicality and I hope he finds the same love of sports that you have. He has these amazing parts of you and I’m feel lucky that I see them so clearly. But it makes me wish everyday that you knew him too, that you could see for yourself and more importantly that J could see it too.
For now I settle for what it is, that you aren’t willing to do the work to build a relationship and that M&P aren’t going to try to create a relationship with someone who isn’t meeting them partway. For now I am finding a way to accept that our son may grow up not ever meeting you. For now I accept that the only role I can play in this is to continue to find those moments where he is a mini you and to acknowledge those moments. But if you ever want to give openness a shot, if you ever are willing to start on this journey yourself and find the path to having a relationship with him, feel free to let me know. Because I would be happy to stand next to you, to support you through what can be a difficult journey towards open adoption, I can walk next to you and show you some of the turns I took and help you choose your own course. I would be happy to do this for you, for me, but mostly for him.
Last week I was talking to a good friend of mine about all the goings on in my life. I told her about a conversation I had with my parents earlier in the week where I was trying to explain my concerns with my current job status.
And my parents quickly took a side, hammering into me advice they felt was needed. And like my independently natured self always seems to do in cases like this, I planted my feet and passionately took the other side. And by the end of the conversation I had spent so much time talking about the side which was in direct contradiction to my parents that suddenly I started to totally discount the numerous and good reasons I couldn’t decide between the two options in the first place.
Telling my friend about this her response is “yeah, you do that a lot”. She’s right. I do. When I’m discussing a particularly difficult subject for myself, when I’m trying to decide which way I want to go in any decision, and I speak about it to someone who has an adamant opinion, I instantly start taking the opposite stance because it feels like they don’t understand why I’m even debating it. In order for them to give me what I feel is educated advice they need to be entirely aware of both sides and so if they are coming at it from one side then I need to first entirely present the other.
But in doing that I spend time dwelling on only one side of the debate and suddenly a POV that I’m not sure about is laid out with all the positives, I can at times convince myself of that POV simply because I spend time trying to explain it to others. For my conversation with my parents, I hung up from that conversation having a much more determined stance about not leaving my job only because my parents seemed to take the other side.
I’ve found myself frustrated in talking about adoption lately because depending on my audience I find myself in a similar situation. My view of adoption isn’t that open adoption is perfect and an answer to all adoption issues, but I do think that adoption always a negative thing either. And yet when I’m faced with people on one side of the argument of whether adoption is a good thing or not I tend to take the opposite view even though my actual opinion on that subject isn’t quite so clear.
For example, I spend a lot of my time when I’m with other birth mothers or adoptive parents being in a room full of those who believe the version of open adoption that my son and I have is ideal and wonderful. And when I encounter those people, I immediately start listing in length the difficulties I have, the hardships I see my son have, the heavy emotional toll this can take on both of us, how it’s nothing close to ideal. And I hate taking that stance because it makes me sound like I’m unappreciative of what I do have, it makes it sound like there is no hope for kids who have been adopted to have positive experiences. I worry that even putting out there how hard it can be will become a reason that people state for never putting in the hard work for open adoption. If I say that its not easy will other birth parents or adoptive parents point to my words as the reason they gave up?
Then there is when I take on the entirely opposite stance. When I’m around others who don’t understand why you would have openness, those who have never seen an open adoption (or at least not one that is as thriving as ours) and especially those with no real relationship to adoption, I tend to have to take the opposite stance. I sing the praises of how important open adoption is, my son will have access to his own history, to the different parts of both his nature and his nurtured self and that our ongoing relationship is a way to help battle the emotions he may feel as he grows. He will know me, he will know he is loved by me, and he will never feel like loving me back will in any way be a comment on his relationship with his parents. But then I become this poster girl – like look how wonderful open adoption can be. I don’t want that either, people shouldn’t be shown me as an example because I’m not one. We’re not one.
My son’s adoption is complicated, our openness is an imperfect work in progress. It’s not some perfect solution to any difficulty an adoptee may face, but it’s also something that provides enough moments of amazing joy and unforgettable memories that it’s worth fighting for. I don’t want to be a poster girl for open adoption (especially not for women considering adoption who are told ‘look how wonderful it can be’), and I don’t want people to use my words to show how even open adoption is bad and adoption can never be anything positive (especially if it’s used as an excuse not to work towards openness with the other members of your adoption family).
It’s one of the reasons words have been so hard to come by lately. So I haven’t written because it’s been too hard to find a way to express the middle ground where I reside. I don’t have an answer, but I figure putting it out there may help me find one (or maybe confront that there is no answer and I should just stop talking about this all with anyone outside of J’s family).
How does my relationship with J measure up to other open adoptions? It’s a question I’ve spent a lot of time on in the last four years – is our open adoption considered extremely open and atypical, do we fit the norm for most people who live local like us, or are there families linked through adoption out there who are much closer than we are? Where do we stack up?
I see J about once a month. Actually except for a 6 week span that went from March to May I have seen J within every four week period over the last year, and when it makes sense we see each other more than that. For instance, we did our photo shoot the first weekend I was free (May 3rd) this spring, then the following weekend I saw J at his birthday party on Saturday and then again on Sunday for Mother’s Day. The truth is in some other open adoptions I’m sure if the photo thing came up the parties involved might have said “Why don’t we combine everything that day, have photos, celebrate his birthday and celebrate Mother’s Day”. We could have easily gone that route. But J was having a birthday party where his family was invited, so why wouldn’t I be invited as well? And they were going to celebrate Mother’s Day with M’s Mom who was in town, so why not invite me to brunch and hang out with me for a few hours afterward? They don’t see it as a big deal to include me on something like that so inviting me to something that they would invite the rest of the family to seems natural and for them it wasn’t an extra activity, it was something they were doing already. The only inconvenience for anyone really was on my part putting aside three separate days but being at his birthday party and having Mother’s Day with him made it definitely worthwhile to do that. I loved being there for all those moments. And more importantly, J cares that I’m there. He wants to see a woman he considers his Mother on Mother’s Day. And he wants his family at his birthday party, I’m part of that. So for us, this is what is now accepted, what is now expected. We get together as much as it makes sense.
I remember there was a time I used to count the visits, heck for a long time I counted the hours. I had a rough idea of how many hours I had spent with J since the hospital, how many visits I had. That stopped somewhere along the lines. I think I stopped counting when I stopped worrying if a certain number visit would be the last one, if visit 5 or 15 would be the last time I saw J until he was grown and decided to look for me. And once I stopped worrying about it being our last visit I stopped feeling as much pressure to have each visit be some major event. It was then that I became more comfortable having visits that weren’t any big deal, having an afternoon where I spent time making a fort and having play time where I was relegated to the closet. These are memories that I’m guessing J won’t remember, and there aren’t any pictures of to remind him, these are the moments that are fleeting and that I’m guessing will probably never be talked about in length – they aren’t some exciting story to tell as he grows. But these are the building blocks which have shaped our relationship. And what I’ve realized is that the big blocks – being at his baptism, being there for tree trimming parties or going to his first Broadway show with him, the big memories, the ones captured in the book his Dad makes him each year, the ones with pictures included and stories that will be told – might seem like the important ones, the ones that really matter, but it’s the smaller stuff, the moments we’ve shared that have really solidified my presence as a part of his life. And it’s the solid foundation that put me at ease that our relationship is about more than a certain number of visits or fulfilling a certain responsibility for J, it’s about a relationship between him and me, between his entire family and me.
So when someone else looking at our relationship sees how often we have visits they might think it’s overkill. In fact another birth mother and friend who blogged over at OBG about how she feels she has to defend her open adoption with her son as not being excessive. The truth is I see my son more often than her, so not only do I have to tell people on the outside of adoption that this isn’t excessive, there are times I think people in open adoptions see my relationship and wonder about it being more than what is necessary. For me most of their thought process seems entrenched in the reasons they feel we have an open adoption. The genetic history, my son seeing people that look like him, and my being able to answer any questions he has about himself and his biological history seem to be the most accepted reasons that people give for the importance of open adoption. All those are important. But when I go to J’s house and spend the day hanging out, it’s not really for any of those reasons. It’s because I love to be around my son. And I think my son loves to be around me.
I won’t say there aren’t moments where there are 100 things he’d rather do than hang out with me – moments were sitting there and the allure of a video on the i-phone has more an appeal than telling me about his school, or when I go to leave and he doesn’t want to stop playing with a toy to say goodbye, but the majority of the time it’s pretty apparent to me that he wants me there. When he first saw me at his birthday party he walked past several kids who were trying to get his attention to come up to me and give me a huge hug – I was the only relative who he did that for (everyone else either got a passing nod as he ran past them, or a hug only after his Dads told him to come and say hi). Those moments I fully believe it matters that I’m there.
So yes, we might have visits more than some other open adoptions, more visits than are required if our only goal is for J to know his biological history. But it’s not even close to being excessive. It’s okay for me to be a priority in their life, it’s okay that having regular contact with me is important. And it’s okay for them to be a priority in my life. It’s okay if I’m choosing between hanging with friends and seeing J I will choose J pretty much every time. At the end of the day, our having this level of relationship happened because we enjoy being around each other (at least I enjoy being around them and I sort of assume the feeling is mutual). I think I might feel differently if the relationship felt strained all the time, if the visits always felt awkward. If I dreaded them, then having visits all the time might feel excessive. But the minute I dropped the expectations of what a visit should be and instead found a way to enjoy spending time with a kid I loved, it was then that I stopped understanding how more visits would be a bad thing.
So yes, this May I saw my son three times in 8 days (and I saw his Dads four time in 8 days) and it wasn’t even close to excessive.