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.
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.