I suggested a topic over at Open Adoption Bloggers for an OART so I figured I had better actually write a post for it. The topic was based on a post by Kat – great post with lots of great comments so please check that out as well as other posts on the OART which is if you’re open adoption has been successful why do you feel that has been the case? If it’s been unsuccessful why do you feel that is so.
In the first few months, even the first year or two if I had been asked this question I would have said education and expectations – if we weren’t all educated about openness, if we didn’t all believe going in this is what is best for J it wouldn’t have worked out as well for us. I believe that is an important place to start from. But what I have realized since then is that neither M&P nor I were really educated to think open adoptions should look like ours. For the three of us, we were told that being honest with J and having two way communication where they could ask questions (especially J) was important, but the truth is you could strive for that same thing and not have visits, especially not have visits once a month. And the real truth is, M&P have never met another family that looks like ours, they don’t know anyone else who has an adoption as open as ours, so to say they have treated it the way they have because it’s what they were educated to believe coming into it isn’t quite right.
I know P believes that this relationship of ours is the way it is because we come from similar backgrounds and have things in common – I do believe the fact we could have been friends if we met outside of this crazy adoption world does make a big difference in the ability to relate to each other. The truth is it helped us getting past the hump of the title (birth mother, adoptive father) and allowed us to see each other as people instead. I also think at the end of the day it helps that I like M&P, I like talking to them about things that aren’t just J, it helps with our visits, it helps me feel like they are invested in me and for them to feel I’m invested in not just J but their whole family.
For me those are the main reasons we started on the right path, but I’ve seen so many open adoptions start down the “right” path only for it to change direction (or for members involved to realize the path they were actually one was a different when then they thought). So for me the important thing to note is not why we got on this path but why we are able to stay on it (and I am oh so hopeful we do stay on it).
I think we maintain this because none of us take the relationship for granted. I think to a degree this idea is important in every relationship that is sustainable, you can’t forget what you have or you may lose it. It’s strange to be grateful to have a relationship with your child, but instead of seeing it as a negative, I allow myself to feel lucky, to feel grateful, and to remember that it requires work on my part to sustain what I have or to make it even better. I also see M&P not taking me for granted, not expecting anything, but feeling gratitude when positive things happen. I think not losing sight of that, is the only way we will be able to stay on this path.
So the lead up to J’s birthday party wasn’t as stressful for me as the past two years have been (meaning I didn’t stay up late every night obsessing about things surrounding the visit). I think in part it was because we just had a really great visit the week before so pressure for anything was off. But the other and bigger part is I’ve been obsessing about something else in my life – a job interview I have today.
Let’s set it up, a week ago tomorrow I got an email from my old grad school advisor – he gets a lot of people emailing him potential jobs and he sends them out into the world for all his alumni to see in case one of them wants that job, this job opening was at a NYC high school teaching in the field I work in. It was a part time position. I thought, hey, this is for 3 afternoons a week, currently I work 5 mornings a week and two afternoons a week, maybe I could do this job as well, a job I think I would actually enjoy, and in the process up my salary enough that in a year or two I could significantly eat into my debt and be a little more comfortable in life in general. Yes this job would require some nights and weekends as well, so it would be a lot of work, but maybe not so much that it was overwhelming and if I’m making money, real money, for it then it’s worth it. So at the end of the day I sent in my resume and a cover letter.
The next morning (by like 10am) I got an email back from the head of the department asking for an interview for this week. We sent emails back and forth on Thursday and Friday. Through the emails I realized that this might be a bigger position than I originally thought – they said they consider this a 75% position which may include a decent salary and benefits. If that’s true, then the job may be able to replace my job #1 and I would make a little more money than I do now, if it’s what I originally thought then this would be in addition to my two jobs (and I would be working a lot) but it would be making a lot more money.
In either case, I’m excited, I’m excited that this could be a positive change in what I’m doing, in how much I’m making, and this is possible to be a long term job – something I could keep for years and find a little more stability in my life. I actually see possibility when I think about it.
But all that means I’m super nervous about this interview. I’m nervous that I will mess up this interview, I’m worried that the things that made them interested in me (that I have a Master’s a really good program for instance) are not my most defining characteristic and when they realize I’m not the person they thought I’d be that they wouldn’t give me a second thought. I’m pretty much worried I’m just not good enough.
I didn’t used to have this much self-doubt. Before I didn’t worry that my basic person wasn’t good enough for someone else. I just did my own thing and assumed people could take me or leave me and if they left me it was their loss. The truth is J’s adoption changed something in me, I don’t have that level of self-confidence (if that’s the word) anymore. I worry that the version of myself that I am is just not good enough. I worry that if they actually saw the real me they would never hire me.
Last night as I was trying to not psych myself out for this interview I realized that prior to placing J I had never been turned down for a job or a position at a school (I interviewed for undergrad and grad school and was accepted in both) after interviewing. Since I was a kid I haven’t been on that many interviews but every one I’ve been on I’ve gotten. The only exception to this is when I was leaving grad school I had a couple phone interviews that didn’t pan out and then I had two in person interviews, both jobs I wanted, I was offered one and called the other job to see if they were going to be making a decision and they said they put off the decision making process for another couple weeks so if I had another offer I should probably take it, that was as close to rejection as I’ve gotten. Since relinquishing J I have interviewed at two jobs, and gotten neither. The last one was a particularly bad interview, like really really bad. I had sort of realized walking into it that it wasn’t a job I wanted, it was a different position than I thought it would be plus I would be making the same if not less money and having to quit the job I actually like. But I totally was a mess on the interview. I think I told them basically that I didn’t work well with others right after they told me about their team approach. It could have been that I had one other interview in the last 7 years and that was a job I didn’t get so I was out of practice, or it could be that I am applying to different jobs and coming from a different place in life than I ever have before – I’m not newly out of college or grad school so there’s more competition and my experience doesn’t completely fit the kind of job I’m looking for. But I also have this little niggle in the back of my brain that is telling me that part of this has to do with insecurities I now have because of what I went through three years ago.
I think I’ve always had cracks in how I put myself out there, I always knew that people might react badly to certain parts of my personality, but before J I really think I didn’t let it bother me. I possessed the brave “take me or leave me” attitude that let me be disliked by some people and instead of wondering what I did wrong I just felt bad for them for missing out on me being in their life. When I relinquished J and became a woman that wasn’t able to do something most people do – parent her own child – those cracks suddenly started to fill with self-loathing and self-doubt. I stopped believing people who didn’t like me were missing out on something special and started to wonder if I was good enough for anyone. Days like today, interviews like today I worry that best case I get the job that in the end they will realize who I really am and regret ever hiring me. This self doubt seeps into all the cracks I have, it starts to overtake and I know I didn’t feel this before.
I’m trying to let go of any self-doubt and walk into this interview knowing that this place would be better off with me than without, but honestly it’s hard.
Today, I brought one of my closest NYC friends and her toddler to J’s birthday party.
It was on a farm near Manhattan, and one of the reasons my friend was invited and came was because she had both a child and a car so M&P suggested inviting her to help me actually get there. It had also been almost more than 18 months since this particular friend had seen J so she was excited to come as well.
It was a day that will be remembered. It was raining the entire time, but J was not deterred from being outside looking at the animals. He did a few walk abouts, he is actually afraid of getting too close (especially to the goats) and feeding the animals (which may impede his future plans to be a farmer) but he loved it. The other kids loved that they got to jump in puddles and get super wet and dirty. I think everyone had a pretty good time.
When I first got there and found J (he was outside while all the other kids were indoors playing and eating) he barely said hi. And then I hung around and he decided to go on a walk and as we approached the path that cars actually drive on and everyone made sure all little people were holding hands with big people, J’s Grandma asked him to hold my hand. He said no and then said he’d only hold his Grandma’s hand. She turned to me with a look in her eye to apologize. But what she didn’t understand then is it was fine. I wasn’t hurt, not at all. The thing is, there are plenty of times that J says he won’t give me a hug or kiss, that he doesn’t want to play with me, or won’t hold my hand. There is a ton of rejection in almost every visit. And that’s okay. Because he’s 3 and it’s his prerogative to be adamant about certain things. And because for as many times as he tells me no, there are usually more that him and I connect in a way. Sometimes I go whole visits without connecting at all and I walk away feeling a little shorter, but other times I have visits (like last week on Mother’s Day) where he is happy to see me and interacting with me the whole time.
And then there are visits like today, where people kept telling him to do things with me – like why don’t you take her to the craft table and paint something together, or why don’t you hold her hand. And he never seems that keen. But then later on, when he’s a little more comfortable and no one is telling him what to do, he’ll start talking to me, just me about alpaca and how they are awesome, and about how chickens are his favorite, and he’ll reach for my hand even when no one is telling him he has to hold anyone’s hand, and he might even just look at the camera while someone takes a picture of us, and he’ll decide that we will play hide and seek and hide from everyone else without telling them that we are playing a game and hiding (he really didn’t understand the concept that to play hide and seek effectively the seekers needed to know they were playing) and he will choose to spend time with just me even though all his friends are around. I spent almost 30 minutes walking around the farm alone with J, pretty much just the two of us talking about things, and hanging out and nothing about it felt forced or like someone was telling him to do it.
When people talk about me leaving the city and tell me I have to make life choices that work for me and I say but, but, but, BUT….what I feel they don’t totally understand is the feeling of today. It’s not because 7 visits a year might become only 1, it’s not because I would have to travel to see J, it’s because having regular contact means that I don’t feel pressure for every single second to count anymore, I don’t panic when J once again tells everyone how he doesn’t want to give me a hug, or he walks away with no acknowledgement when I say hi. I can handle those moments because I know that we’re still good, that we will still have some unbelievable moments that I will hold onto for a very long time, that if I have a little patience he will come to me wanting my attention and my time. If there wasn’t so frequent contact than I believe I would feel like every visit, every second we needed to be bonding and making it count. I don’t feel that pressure now, which makes it so much better when those moments of really bonding do come along. I love my son, but even more I love that our relationship means he can totally brush me off and it no longer bothers me.
I’ll be sharing a few pictures in a follow up post of our rainy day today, but as always they will be password protected. Please feel free to email or tweet me to get the password.
One of the things I wanted very much for J as I started to choose his family was for him to have siblings. I suppose if it had been the most important issue I would have found a family who already had kids and I didn’t go to that length to ensure he wasn’t an only child, but I did go so far as to not choose families where it seemed they wanted one child – in fact it was the first question I asked M&P about. My siblings are so important to my life for ways I can’t easily explain, and I wanted that for J.
I have had to deal with the fact that whether J had siblings would be out of my control for the last three years. I was starting to come to terms with the fact another child for their family would most likely not happen, and although that was a sad thing for me, I knew it wasn’t my decision so I had to let it go.
But then, this visit P brought it up again. He was telling me the agency we used had closed it’s domestic program to any new PAPs – the way they keep waiting down for their PAP is they only allow for a certain amount of enrollment. Whatever that number is (100 maybe?) each set of expectant parents is shown every waiting family (I believe unless circumstances such as a special needs child causes restrictions), and is given the chance to choose equally from them. That way most families wait less time and most emoms have a diverse group to choose from.
With the agency closed to new families P was trying to figure out what their next steps might be – he was asking me whether he should just go to an attorney and try to match with someone that way. He seemed to want my inside scoop of the best way to find an expectant mother looking to place.
For me going through an attorney makes so little sense, they don’t have to supply any counseling to the expectant Mother and there’s not a lot of protection there. It just feels like a less ethical route. It felt like during that conversation that P was looking for my assistance in helping them find someone to relinquish to them. And that’s where I’m so torn.
You see, I don’t want to in any way encourage any woman to even consider adoption, the truth is this is a lifelong sentence of grief and I do believe it should only be considered as an option when nothing else works. I would never judge a woman who decides she doesn’t want to parent, and I understand the feeling if a woman feels she doesn’t have the support to parent – I know there are times where adoption is the option out there that makes the most sense, but I feel as a woman living the life of a birth mom, it is my first priority to make sure a woman understands what adoption means and what it doesn’t mean (the fact your child isn’t guaranteed a better life pops to mind as the first point all expectant parents should understand).
And yet, I do feel torn about this, not really because I want J to have a sibling and not because I want M&P to have another child if they want one, I do want those things but not enough to actively try to help them find an expectant mom they could talk to. But what does keep me feeling torn is that I know M&P as adoptive parents, and they are some of the good ones. They love my son, they are amazing parents to him, AND they also love me and have whole heartedly accepted me into their family. I know for them openness isn’t some term they bandy around, it’s something they believe. I know for them they don’t expect it to be easy rather they assume it will be hard and it doesn’t scare them. I know they can put aside any insecurities they have if its better for their child. They are not the parents that say one thing and mean another, they won’t walk away at some point because it stopped being easy or fun. In essence if a woman was going to place her child they are the kind of people I hope she places with.
And that is why I’m torn. The truth is I feel it’s important if J has a brother or sister that sibling came to M&P through ethical means and there was no coercion or manipulation of the situation. But I also believe that if I child is going to be parented by someone beside their biological parents, M&P are a tested and true set of amazing adoptive parents.
So how much do I help them in trying to adopt a second child? I would have no problem if they were going through an ethical agency to write a letter of support for instance. But to approach a woman considering adoption and encourage them to place directly with M&P would be something I don’t think I could ever consider. So where between those things does my line fall? I’m honestly trying to figure this out. They are a part of my family – M&P and J – and I would be happy to support them in growing their family is an ethical way, I just haven’t quite figured out how to do that.
My baby is three today. All the happy, all the sad, and everything in between has been felt today. I bought his last present, a book. I’ve spent hours online, and two hours at bookstores trying to nail down the perfect one – after I found out the book I gave him for Christmas has become one of his favorites and that he won’t let anyone read it without reading the inscription I wrote first made it feel like this choice was an important one. I hope he loves it, but even if he doesn’t I hope he sees my love reflected in it and the few other gifts I got him.
I’ve been wearing a bracelet of pink yarn today, it was what they used to tie up (instead of a ribbon) the present he gave me yesterday. I tied it around my wrist last night and I’m thinking I’ll leave it there this week, it is a good touchstone to me to remember the good when I’m feeling the loss.
I know yesterday and today are two hard days, the third hard day will be Wednesday – the 15th of May was the day I left the hospital without him and tends to be another day where I feel loss so completely (at least I have in the past years). But these three days are also full of love and joy in knowing my little man is such a light in the lives of so many people, including and especially me.
Happy Birthday J.
Today was just one of those incredibly hard days. The strange part was that it wasn’t because of how people treated me or interacted with me, I received many wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day, from my son and his family, from friends and co-workers, from those who have been a part of my story from the beginning and those just barely introduced to my Motherhood. It wasn’t the lack of the good that made this day hard.
The truth is if I had written out what an ideal Mother’s Day would look like, today’s highlights would have all made the list. First, I feel blessed I got to spend the day with my son, with his family. I got a homemade present and picture he drew, a card that his Dads signed with a very loving message thanking me for being part of their family and another part signed by my son (he wrote both my name and his in very shaky letters, and I’ve never seen my name look more lovely). I got to play pretend with him, help him build a fort (it was a pretty slamming fort if I do say so myself), and he told me that I was the funniest person he knew. We got to have a picnic, play on a playground, feed the ducks, watch the turtles, then go back to his house to play in his backyard watching him hit some amazing balls off the tee and dig through the dirt to tend his ‘farm’. I got lots of hugs and kisses goodbye from all three members of the family. Then I came home to Mother’s Day greetings from friends which was pretty swell. Then I saw that a post I wrote last year was nominated as the Best of writing about adoption and Mother’s Day over at the Open Adoption Bloggers site (If you were the person who nominated me for this thank you, I am truly humbled to be in such great company and that anyone would remember something I wrote a year later was truly great feeling). All in all, I feel incredibly lucky.
But here’s the thing – as incredibly lucky as I was today, every moment where things stopped, where I had a breath, where I had a moment to think, I felt so empty – every little crack that wasn’t filled with the joy of the moment in the day was completely filled with loss, grieve, sadness. I still felt how shitty it is to live through Mother’s Day as a Mother with a qualifier in front, as a Mother who is never really a Mother because she lost her child to adoption.
This isn’t my first Mother’s Day as a Mother with a qualifier (and it won’t be the last), so this sort of emptiness that comes with Mother’s Day wasn’t a surprise, I felt it last year, the year before. I guess the reason it hit a little harder this year was because it was such a horrible reminder that no matter how wonderful a relationship I have with my son, I have still lost so much. I had an amazing Mother’s Day – not just for a birth mother, but for most any Mother, and yet I still am ending my day with a heavy weight on my heart.
So today was a great day, a beautiful day, and yet still so unbelievably hard. I never expected to have this good of a Mother’s Day, this perfect a Mother’s Day, but what I can’t wrap my head around is I certainly never expected that if I had an amazing Mother’s Day like this that I wouldn’t be able to properly enjoy it fully because every moment I had a chance to reflect the sadness would creep in, that today when I felt some of the greatest joy I still felt some of the deepest sadness.