So this past weekend I would have what I have to call the penultimate visit prior to J moving. Except I shouldn’t even call it a visit, for me visits are events where the goal is for me to spend time with J, whether it’s my going to a museum with him and the family or it’s a day staying at their house playing, the point is it’s about growing our relationship. This weekend it wasn’t that.
I went to a party at M&P’s house, a party where J was there. I saw him, he said hi. I got a wave hello and a hug and a kiss goodbye, and I was given an arts and crafts project he worked on, but that was the extent of our interaction. The evening for J was about playing with his friends, some of them it would be the last time seeing them before he left. He was having a blast, really enjoying his time with everyone. It was fun to watch. But quality time with J and I it was not.
Instead I got to talk some with a few of M&P’s friends and quite a bit with some of P’s family. I got to see M&P and talk to them some as well. In general it was an okay time. I don’t know these people too well, I know them well enough to talk about my job and my plans to visit M&P abroad but not enough where there weren’t some major lulls in the conversation.
As I was leaving and talking to M on my way out the door about our last visit, I realized how close it actually is. A week from Saturday we have the whole day set aside. My sister and her husband will be in town and will be participating in the visit as well. I have two major opposing views of that, I’m so thrilled she gets to spend time with J before he moves – she lives across the country and hasn’t been out this way in four years so the fact she was able to get in a visit before J moved is a real treat, but I’m also so possessive of this time with J, especially since it’s the last time I’ll see him for at least several months that I’m a little weirded out that she will be there for the goodbye I am going to have.
So yeah, it will be a big visit, my sister will be there, I will be giving my Christmas presents (not sure yet all of what I’m doing for J although I have some ideas and I have no idea what if anything I’m doing for M&P), and I will have a really big goodbye in front of me.
In between now and then I will see P again, he is coming over to my apartment (he has never seen it, I’m sort of nervous by the whole thing), he is bringing his two brothers as well, and they are bringing over some furniture and electronics that M&P are getting rid of. I spent all the time I have where I haven’t been working (which isn’t a lot unfortunately) cleaning my apartment. Between P coming over and my sister coming to stay I want my place to look it’s best and I’ve been so busy lately that it was far from it’s best.
So yeah, I’m all over the place right now, some moments I’m engulfed in work, other moments I’m freaking out about my apartment and whether it’s clean enough, then I start realizing I don’t have a present for J yet and I freak about that, then I start to realize that my sister will be here in a week and she is leaving with me for home so I am a week and a half away from needing to be packed with presents for my Christmas trip home. So yeah, lots of stress, it’s nuts.
Life has been hard lately, I’ve been overworked – learning to traverse having two jobs who both want my full attention. Its hard.
In many ways, and as overwhelmed and frustrated as I felt, being busy meant escaping the overwhelming adoption feelings for a while.
Don’t get me wrong, even though I honestly worked an average of 90 hours a week for the past month and a half, I still saw J a few times (I saw him four times since my last post including a visit to each of my two jobs), I still made his Halloween costume (or at least parts of it) [if I ever get my act together I’ll share a picture with you all, there was a lot of glitter and some shiny fabric involved], I still got to see him play soccer, I still did a bunch of planning for the visits that will happen before the move. What I’m trying to say is that J is a huge part of my life and even when I’m busy and overwhelmed that doesn’t change.
But when you barely have time to sleep and eat you don’t have much time to wallow or obsess. I have spent very little time thinking about what it will be like when my baby is a half a world away, I guess I’m pretty happy that I was too busy to think of this everyday for months. I’m pretty sure the build up would sort of be worse if I let it consume me.
Things have calmed a little in my life over the last week, and I’ve had more time, time to start planning where the items M&P are giving me from their apartment will go (they have to get rid of several pieces of furniture as well as all electronics, I will finally have a TV that was actually made in this century!). I’m starting to think about what Christmas present I should get them considering they will need to be packed a few days after they are received. I am starting to think about the specifics of traveling to them in 2015, there are only two small windows where travel is possible from my work which complicates things. And I’m starting to plan the goodbye conversations I need to have with J. J is visiting what will be his new home this week and next, I’m seriously a mess about it, in part because I want to see him as much as possible and right now I have time to see him and he’s not here. Partly because it feels like a huge clock is ticking down the time we have left to be near each other and he’s spending a big chunk of that time really far away. Partly because he just feels so far away and that’s so hard.
All of this is hard.
I honestly cannot fault M&P for the choice they made in this. When I spin it around and look at it from all sides it really has so many amazing things about it, moving J away from me and the rest of his family is a big negative but I understand the decision. But it doesn’t mean it’s suddenly easy.
Two weeks from today I will spend Thanksgiving with J and much of his extended family. It will actually be the first holiday I will have spent with his family. I’m really happy I have this chance. But realizing this will be the last Thanksgiving that J has for the next five years – even if they decide to celebrate it over there I doubt they’ll have access to the same food and definitely won’t have family to share it with – it’s just one more reminder of saying goodbye.
So yeah, I have just over a month to really say goodbye. We’ll have three or four visits in that time (three are currently in the books but all three involve many other people and I would like at least one additional for just us). We’ll eat turkey, exchange Christmas gifts, I see his extended family, he’ll meet some of my family, we’ll make sure we have skype schedule in place and figure out timing for my visit to them. And we’ll have a goodbye. A big one. It will be just one of 1000s of goodbyes that J will have next month, goodbyes to his school, his friends, his Auntie, his cousins, goodbye to the hundreds of people who so love this little boy. So when I’m lamenting how hard this will be for me, I make myself remember how very hard it will be for him.
It’s almost easy then to stop feeling sorry for myself and realize what my priority needs to be – making sure J knows he is super loved, and will be super missed, but also is going on a grand adventure where he’ll meet new friends, learn new languages, see new things and even far away will be blanketed in love from all corners of the world.
So it isn’t often I get the opportunity to see an adoptive child with their birth parents. In fact I think I have three such experiences, the first two were at points where I was sort of interrupting a visit so the interactions were pretty short and not too in depth. But a week ago I got another opportunity.
And watching a child with his birth mother (a child who was quite a bit younger than J) was this sort of amazing reminder of the journey I’ve been on.
You see the other child was just starting to really understand this woman before him was important, he was still little, still figuring out words and interactions. He was just figuring out how to be comfortable giving his birth mother a hug goodbye, he was saying the first letter of her name over and over, trying to find the way to form her name.
It reminded me of when J was 18 months or so, he wouldn’t ever give me a hug, just a fist bump at the end of visits.
It reminded me of when J said my name in front of me for the first time – he was looking at a picture I was in as I sat next to him and said my name. He didn’t seem to quite understand that person was me, but I remember the moment I heard my name aloud.
Quickly after that point J started remembering my name, then it was less than 6 months where he started really putting together who I was, connecting to me as family, calling me his Mommy. By his third birthday he would regularly talk about what toys I had got him, talk about “his box that I made” which was a box I had made for his Dads, and that was when I first saw a picture of the two of us on his bedside table.
Now pictures of me with him are all over his room, he continually has little presents to give me or exciting things to tell me. There is no doubt he loves me, and that I’m an active and important part of his life. And it’s easy to forget how insecure it felt to see my son every 8 weeks for 3 years and not feel confident that he really knew who I was or that he felt any sort of connection to me. Its easy to forget the visits where he didn’t want to give me a hug or would run past me to hug his aunt or cousin or someone else in his life and not ever say hi to me. It’s easy to forget how I clung to that first hug, the moments where he wanted to sit in my lap or when I would hear my name. It’s easy to forget how very hard it was to hang in there not really knowing if it would ever feel any different.
But it does. I’m not saying it is super easy, rather it’s hard in a very different way now. It’s hard because now that the connection my son has to me is much more evident, it’s also evident that he feels the loss of my absence between visits. But to no longer feel like an obligation that M&P just kept up with because they felt they owed me, to no longer feel like a stranger with my own son, to have those sorts of insecurities dissolve away has shifted the focus from whether I should stick around to knowing I have to and that the more active I am the better it is for J.
In the last couple of days I’ve been trying to wrap my head around my new reality. In four months my son will be moving really really far away. I know I’ll have feelings of goodbye that will wrench my stomach and make me not want to let go of him, but I will, because for better or worse that is the role I have in J’s life. I am not the person that gets to decide where he lives; that is part of my reality.
But at the end of the day I am starting to see more hope in this than anything else. I know several of you think they shouldn’t be moving, but I do believe they are looking at all the benefits and drawbacks for their whole family and everyone involved and they are doing what is right for them.
And when I have a hard time finding my joy about this I start using my logical mind and it brings me to the math.
Here’s the funny thing, in 2013 I had something like 13 visits with J, I basically saw him once a month. In 2014 we are on track for similar (although may have more because of the end of the year wanting to get extra goodbyes in). My average visit is usually about 5 or 6 hours, with my trip for M’s birthday last year I had a two day visit where I spent probably around 35 hours with J. So I actually think a pretty accurate estimate is that I spent about 110 hours with J last year and with more visits but no weekend away, I am on track for a similar amount of time this year. Between visits I had no actual communication with J – we talked about talking on the telephone it just never happened. I would email with M&P but J is too little to communicate directly like that so our only interaction has been at visits.
This coming year starting in January I will have three periods of time I can see J. I will do a visit to see them in Feb or March (most likely), they will come back for a visit for 6 weeks in July to August, and another 3 weeks during December. During their visits in July/August and December if I have two longish visits with them (let’s say I see them for a total of 32 hours over four visits and I think that is the minimum that will happen) and I go to them for 2 weeks (which is the minimum I’m going to do but I could possibly stretch a couple days more) in March, at minimum I would be spending a total of 200 hours with J in 2015 and that’s really low-balling it. I know it’s sort of weird to count the hours I spend with my son, but when it feels like I’m going to be losing him reminding myself I will see him for twice as much time next year as I did last year (and this year too) really actually helps a lot.
The duration between visits is the other scary part for me. But I think they will be happy to plan to do skype once a month minimum so I do think I’ll get a chance to see and interact with J as much as I do now even if it’s remotely. And if we plan the year well there won’t be more than a 4 month gap in time from one visit to the next, I know 4 months feels like an eternity to me right now because we were cruising along with visits every month, but the truth is the first year of J’s life we had visits every three months or so, it didn’t feel overwhelmingly long then. I know many people whose open adoptions are three or four visits a year, heck there’s a lot who have one visit a year.
Is all of this perfect, no. It’s a huge change. But it does pay to remember that I will have as much if not more access to his life than I do now, it will just be a different kind on a different schedule.
And for me I will have something more. The idea that I would spend two weeks staying with them, that I can read J a bedtime story each night or help him make breakfast in the morning, that I can be a part of their family for a couple weeks each year, it all is pretty big thing for us.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a whole lot of sad for me to deal with here, he will be so very far away, but I can do the math and realize that this doesn’t have to be a huge step backward, no one wants it to be and we’re all willing to work to make sure it doesn’t happen.
I maybe will regret saying this later, but I have no doubts that M&P will follow through with all of this, that they really feel the importance of my relationship with J and that they are going to bust their butts to make sure we make this all work. As many freak outs as I have had the last two days, not one of them has had anything to do with doubts about intentions and their ability to follow through. The last four years have had so few mis-communications or issues, and talking to them you see it in their face how they recognize how important it is we try to do this the best we can.
So that’s where I’m at, as sad and overwhelmed as I am, I do feel a lot of optimism that we’ll make this work. I’m not fooling myself that there aren’t hard times ahead – the first May where I’m without J around for his birthday and Mother’s Day I know will be particularly tough, saying goodbye to him at Christmas will be another low point I’m sure, but that will come later and I will find a way through it then, like I have up until now.
So I’m raw and emotional right now, I had a really hard night. I’m going to write about it, I’m hoping it will help me process a little and I’m hoping that some of you out there in adoption real life can read this and somehow make me feel a little bit better. It might not work, but here it is.
I met up with M&P tonight, just the three of us. I knew something major was coming, everything passed through my head – that one of them was sick, that they were getting a divorce, that they were adopting again, that they were upset with something I did and wanted to talk it out. But what never crossed my mind is that they were moving away.
But they are.
P got a new job far away. Like really far away. They will be moving in January.
There are many people in their lives that are mad at them, angry they are leaving. It’s not a short stint either, it sounds like at minimum it will be 5 years. I’m sort of in shock about the whole thing, I’m not angry like the others, but I’m very sad. I’m sad that I have to say goodbye, that I’ll miss even more milestones and moments than I would miss anyways, when he comes back he’ll have spent more time living away from me than living in the same city as me.
But as we talked, I realized how grateful I actually should be. You see as they figured all this out, as they were negotiating how this move would work, I was included as a part of that. The new company will pay for me to fly to them once a year for as long as they are there (the location is far enough away I could never afford to go there on my own, I couldn’t afford the flight). M&P made it clear that although they can only provide me one flight a year, that I can stay with them there as long as I want to, that means I could take a month a year to visit them. I made a joke about how it’s too bad I just started a job where I have no vacation and P made sure to tell me that if I was taking unpaid leave off of work to visit them that they would subsidize me for it, especially if that would be a factor in my not coming. Basically not only is my name in their contract saying that part of his package is flights for me but that they want to make sure nothing stops me from coming and staying for as long as I want to, as long as I can each and every year. I know I’m the only relative built into their contract, the only person that they were so worried about they made sure I would be taken care of. We talked about how they will also come home for long stretches twice a year, and although lots of family will be crammed into those stretches, there didn’t seem to be any worries that they wouldn’t find ways for me to spend lots of time with them during those months. So the reality is I could figure it out that I wouldn’t go more than four months at a time without seeing J in person. And hopefully those stretches I’ll be able to really spend time with him. I mean a month staying in his house, if I did that I would probably spend more time with him for that period that I will have for the last three years combined. I mean I am not saying I can take off a month of work every year, I’m not a total crazy pants, but I know I’ll find a way to swing at least two weeks or more each year and I do know I will soak up every second with him while I’m there.
And they want to make sure I can do Skype (P was very concerned about me having the ability to skype and at one point I’m pretty sure he asked me if I had internet to skype with) and that they would make sure J and I had lots of opportunities regularly to keep in contact. I even suddenly had this romantic idea of sending him real letters regularly.
I am so grateful for this attitude, their need to make sure I understand that I was a part of the thought process, that this relationship was a priority to them and that they firmly believe we can maintain a strong relationship or they wouldn’t be going, all of this makes it almost seem okay.
And I’m grateful that J is in the place he is in, the growth our relationship has had in the last year is amazing. We are in a place where I feel confidant of my place in his life, not because his parents set up visits but because of us, because of our connection, because he knows me, loves me and cares about our relationship as much as I do. So although it will be hard for him to leave, I do believe our relationship is strong enough that it can bend into a new shape and won’t break. And if this happened two years ago I wouldn’t feel that way.
And then I think about it again and start crying and feel no gratitude at all, just sadness.
So many emotions, and it’s so very hard. My life feels like someone else came by and flipped everything upside down.
So yeah, that was my day, how was yours?
So it’s official. I’m changing jobs in just over two weeks (not sure if this has been mentioned here or not). It doesn’t feel real. I’ve been at my current job for 9 years. It’s a long time.
A big change like this is something that’s sort of tough for me. I am pretty sure change isn’t easy on anyone. But as the day has approached and things have started to creep up on me I’m not going to lie, I’m sorting freaking the freak out.
The truth is I need to leave the job I’m leaving – it’s not what I want to be doing, and I don’t make enough money doing it where it justifies spending 25 hours a week doing work I’m not super excited about or proud of. But there are so many mixed emotions about leaving.
First, there are a lot of people at this job that I like, some who I like quite a bit. These are my friends. But more than that, many of these people are the friends who were by my side during my pregnancy and after. My boss at this job was the first person I told about my pregnancy, I cried in his office for over an hour while he patiently let me talk about how I was so confused and scared and had no idea about anything anymore. This was the place where three people from my office came to visit me at the hospital – the only people outside of M&P who did (to be fair, one of the people was a good friend of mine who I knew prior to working there, but still). These are the people who remember to say Happy Mother’s Day, who ask about J regularly, several of these people have met J, spent time with him.
Another reason this feels so hard is as the years go on, I have to accept that I’m moving farther away from the ‘before’. Before when I still believed I would meet someone, fall in love, get married and have a family in the simplest of ways, before when I believed my life would work itself out and where I couldn’t have imagined my reality would look anything like the life I’m leading now. Before during the small amount of time where I was J’s Mom legally, where it was J and I against the world.
But moving farther away hasn’t just been in time, its been in the actual changes, moving away from the apartment I lived in when during and after my pregnancy, growing apart from the people who were in my life during that time, and next Friday it will be spending my last day as an employee at the company I worked at when I got pregnant. It is one of the last parts of my life that’s the same as it was 4 years ago. No matter how far away I go it won’t diminish the connection to my son and that time in my life.
But what it does change is it takes away those moments where you get sideswiped by a memory. I know a lot of people don’t like triggers, I’ve had those experiences where I’m bawling in a public place frustrated that my emotions were so out of control, but truthfully I love those reminders of my son. I love when I walk by a certain area, or hear a certain song, or for one reason or another get lost in a memory. Sure many times those memories are twinged in sadness, but feeling that connection to him is something I treasure. When these changes happen I get less of those opportunities in any given day or month.
So I’m saying goodbye to another era of my life and it’s pretty scary.
The hello to the new era isn’t that much easier – my insecurities of whether I will be okay in this new job, whether people will like me, or if my ability to make really horrible first impressions will set a bad tone are overpowering. I am hopeful to find a place where I can make a new professional home and it’s all really scary. And then there’s the whole introducing a new group of people to the story of J. That will probably be another post for another day.
It will be an emotional couple weeks, I think I’ll stock up on ice cream.
I saw J this past weekend, I spent a spent quite a large chunk of the day with him and his family. It was a nice day, one of many visits with J that remind me how much I love this kid and how much I’m loved by him and his family.
But there was a moment that gave me pause on Saturday.
I learned a fact about their family while in conversation with them, something I didn’t know. Actually it was something where I would have bet money on the opposite being true. I won’t go into major details (not really my story to tell) but there was something that I came to believe about M&P when I was in the matching process, information about them that was one of the factors that swayed me to choose them. And what I found out this weekend, more than 4 years into this relationship, is that information is actually only true of P. It isn’t true of M.
I feel weird about finding this out now. It honestly doesn’t really change anything, they are still amazing parents, and maybe more importantly the thing I had thought was true was important to me because I thought it would be a determining factor in how they raised J, and even without it being totally true (again, it’s true of P, just not of M), they are still raising him in the way I had hoped for. But truthfully I don’t understand how I could have so misunderstood something that was so important to me. I don’t want to think they would have purposefully created a scenario where I believed something untrue so they would be more appealing, maybe I just heard something that wasn’t said.
What all of this does remind me is how incredibly difficult a process of matching is for an expectant Mother and Father. Choosing people to parent your children, especially from a pile of strangers, is crazy difficult. I think even worse is if those people turn out to not be who you thought they were, if they seemed to open to you when you were still in control of the relationship and then shut the door after, or if they turn out to be not the right parents for the child (or worse yet, not the right parents for any child), when those things happen not only do you have to deal with the fall out as a birth mother, but you maybe also feel responsible because you chose these people.
Claudia over at Musings of the Lame wrote a blog post that covered a lot of ground but one of the things it did talk about is how because she is a Mother who “chose” to relinquish her son sometimes she struggles with guilt:
There have been times when I almost wish that I had been forced myself, because the guilt of knowing that I, in part, did do this to myself is awful.
I’ve struggled with my own guilt, guilt about the impact adoption has on my son, on my family, on JD, on myself, it all comes back to my shoulders. The decision is all on me, and whatever weight that comes to bear from that “choice” is also on me. To stand up and say “I’m responsible for this, these decisions were mine, and the repercussions all come back to me” is incredibly hard and a large burden to bear.
But then you add to that the fact I was the one who chose M&P, well if they ended up not being the parents that I wanted for J then that would be my fault as well. That would be a hard reality to live with. If M&P somehow ended up abusing J, or just being parents who didn’t have personalities that meshed well with J so he struggled, living with those realities would be near impossible. If M&P didn’t get along with me, or made significant parenting decisions that I didn’t agree with would also carry with it guilt for my responsibility in that. But as hard as that would be what is the alternative? The truth is so many parenting decisions about J aren’t mine that to take away the decision on who parents J (which was one of the only parenting decisions I got to make) seems cruel. And yet, I had no idea what information would be critical, what was the actual important facts to know, and as this information from the weekend shows, even the things I did think were important weren’t necessarily that important. I got lucky, M&P are really great parents for J, they meet him where he is and he is a pretty amazing little kid under their care. They are also great partners in open adoption for me – they have always given me respect in this relationship and encouraged a relationship between J and myself to grow. But I’m the first to admit I don’t think them being such a good fit for J and for myself has much to do with some skill set I possess to choose parents out of a book. So although I appreciate having a say in who is parenting J, I do struggle with the weight of responsibility that comes with that.