I did really well the first half the month, maybe I didn’t post everyday but I was close. And then I stopped.
I can’t say why, I had topics to write about, I had posts partially written, I did have a lot of other things going on, but honestly,the first half of the month was just as busy and that didn’t change anything. I could blame it on computer issues, or new television shows, or added stress at work. All true, but those aren’t the reasons I wasn’t writing because for me I found ways to write, even when those things were taking my focus.
The real reason is I’m not in a good place right now. I’m frustrated with myself, I’m frustrated with my life, I feel so stuck that it’s paralyzing at times. And this past week something has happened in JD’s life, a vague explanation is he was involved in this project for many years. It was something very close to him, something that he brought me to at times and most days for the last three years I would pass by a symbol of this project each morning and evening on my way to and from work. The truth is it didn’t matter if I was reading or playing candy crush, or doing whatever, I almost always looked up while passing it and for that moment no matter how long it was since I had seen or heard from JD I would connect with him. This week that project was discontinued. The symbol has been removed.
I knew this was coming, but the effect it had on me was completely unexpected. It felt like a loss, a loss of one of the ties to when things were at their best with JD, a loss of feeling that tangible connection to him, to us. I haven’t seen JD in months, every once in awhile I talk to him but we haven’t gotten into any sort of regular contact since J was born. I’m okay with that, I have found a way to not have him in my life regularly but still hold on to something with him (in large part for J, the more I stay in touch with JD the more likely it will be that I can help J connect to him in some way). But when I felt this loss this week I realized how much I was really holding onto.
Please don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions of a life with JD. But I also certainly haven’t done anything in my life to move on past him. I haven’t done anything to really progress in any way in my life. I am in so many ways in the same bad place I was four years ago. Although on the outside some things look different – I have a different structure to my jobs, I live in a different kind of apartment now, I am not in an unhealthy relationship with JD but am rather on my own, the foundation of things are the same.
Don’t get me wrong, there are two incredibly important things that have changed dramatically in the past three and a half years. I have a strong foundation to a relationship with J and his family. I have begun a process to deal with my grief and begin to find peace in my life as a birth mother. Those two things are not insignificant. In fact they have taken the majority of my focus for the last three and a half years.
I remember the first days after relinquishment. The promises I made to myself, I made to J was that I would be a person he could be proud of, that I would get on a better path in life. I didn’t know then how incredibly hard and all-consuming it would be to just live as a birth mother in an open adoption. Maybe other people are better at this than I am, maybe they can have a visit, enjoy their child and then go back to their life where they live beyond the world of adoption in a much better way than I have. But for me, my son is my number one priority. My relationship with him is the most important thing to me and nurturing that relationship supercedes everything else. But more than that, in order for me to be able to continue to have an active relationship with J, I realized I would need to work on myself, on my grief and loss, because as easy and simple as it is for me to love my child, to love my child while simultaneously grieving him is difficult and complicated, deailng with that grief and not letting it negatively impact my relationship with my son took a lot of my focus.
So that’s where I put my effort. I don’t for one second think it was misspent – I love my child and if the work I did on myself and my grief allowed me to build a positive relationship with him then I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Except, then I have weeks like this one, weeks where I’m just plain frustrated, weeks where I feel like I’m in a rut with everything else. I want to be in a more stable place, with a job that I both love and that allows me to get out of the debt I have, a place where I have close relationships again – if not romantically at least a core group of close friends who I see regularly. I want to feel like I have a home base. I want to not live in the past anymore, but to have things in the present which fill my life. To make things better I can either hope and wait that things fall in my lap or I can pro-actively pursue better. But I don’t. Instead I just withdraw from everything, including writing.
Today was a visit. A sort of last minute one planned for me to come to their place for the afternoon and have lunch and hang out.
J is a completely different little boy in relation to me as he used to be. He constantly wants to engage with me, to make sure I’m present in whatever game we’re playing, and he seems to really cherish (maybe not the right word, not sure) the time we have together. When I’m at his house he wants me to sit by him, or he wants to know where I am, he doesn’t like it when I spend too much time talking to either of his Daddies, especially if it means I’m not paying attention to him.
I used to come to visits with him and have to sit in his line of vision, and play with him, and at some point he would sort of warm up and engage with me. Now he seems to treat me a little different. He wants to make sure if he learns a new fact I hear it, or if he is doing something cool I see it. When I walk in the door he is grabbing my hand to show me something. (Let me just say here that it’s not always this way, especially when it’s a big visit with lots of other people around, but even then he does engage with just me during those)
And he doesn’t want to say goodbye. Today I was the one that first mentioned I had to leave, I had only done this visit with the because I had a dinner to go to in their neighborhood so it made sense for me to come by and hang out for awhile. So when it got to be the time the dinner was starting I mentioned that had to start saying goodbye. J got annoyed and wouldn’t give me a hug, didn’t want to say goodbye. I get it. I didn’t want to say goodbye either. We talked about it, talked about how I would see them in less than a month when they were doing their tree decorating, and truthfully I’ll see them in less than a month after that again so we know we have 2 visits in less than two months. We took some pictures (I think M&P are starting to realize how horrible we’ve been about getting pictures of me with J so they have decided to make a more concerted effort). And he once again got crabby.
So I gathered my stuff as J sort of sat by himself in a huff about me leaving. I said goodbye to M&P and started to leave. And then I heard it, the “Wait, I have to tell you something”. And out he came giving me a huge hug and saying “I’ll miss you but I’ll see you soon”.
Goodbyes suck, it sucks that each time I see my son I know a goodbye will be involved. I know today’s visit of just over five hours seemed like not enough time for him. I know a visit of a full day would probably not seem like enough time either. It is hard for me to say goodbye to him, and I’m sure it’s even harder for him to say goodbye to me. I wish there was some magical way to make the hard parts of the visit disappear for him, but there’s not. I have to believe that even with the hard, it’s still better to have visits than to not, and the best we can do for him is hear his frustrations and try to minimize them as much as possible.
“I will see you in 30 days”
Those were the end result after a negotiation during my last goodbye with J. He wanted to make sure that I would see him again, he wanted to know when, his Dads told him, “well why don’t we decide when we’ll see her again and then you will know”. So he looked at me and said “I will see you in 30 days.” I smiled at that, it’s so specific, yet not something that actually would register with a 3 year old. He knows what 30 is, but I’m not sure he has a real sense of what it means to be 30 days. And yet it was set, at that moment he knew the adults in his life were agreeing that he would see me in 30 days.
This Sunday will be 25 days since our last visit. And I will see J.
It’s not often that I ask for a specific visit. That’s for a lot of reasons, mostly it’s because when it’s been about a month, if we don’t have one in the books usually M&P reach out to set something up before I do – they are pretty good about being pro-active. It’s also because they have three schedules to negotiate, and I have one, so when it is time for a visit, I like them to take the lead. They are going to pick an activity they can fit in their schedule and that will keep J entertained, it’s all I can ask for from them, and for us. So they have started really taking the lead in planning the when and where of visits and I’ve let them.
But this past email they sent, I replied with a request. In the email they told me when their holiday party was, which is the second week of December. I could easily have waited until then, but they gave me an out of saying something along the lines of “we hope to see you then if not before”. The other thing was that I am going to be at an event about two blocks from their house on Sunday. The event starts in the late afternoon, plenty of time to have lunch together and have a little time to hang out before. It just seemed like the perfect circumstance to fit in to the rest of my plans. So I asked them if they wanted to do lunch on Sunday, with less than a week notice, with another visit already in the books where they knew they would see me in a month. This kind of request is a little out of character for me.
I’m not sure I realized it when I asked, but I have since then, I think when J said he would see me in 30 days it started a countdown in my head, I knew he wanted to see me before Thanksgiving, in less than a month. I knew by the 22nd, we should have a visit, I didn’t think about it obsessively or anything, but I think I knew and had that countdown going. So I think that was actually why I went against the norm and asked for this visit – a visit that beats his deadline by five days. I think in part I asked because I don’t want to ever not follow through with J, when I left him and he said he would see me in 30 days, I said okay. So as I sat there writing them back about Christmas, I asked if they were free on Sunday because our 30 days were almost up and I didn’t want to not be there when I said I would.
I know in life I will disappoint J, it happens between humans. I will have to make choices and sometimes those choices won’t be what he wants me to do, and he will have to grow to understand that I won’t always be there for him on his terms. I wish that wasn’t so, I wish I could protect him from my ever causing him disappointment. But I can’t. No parent can, and honestly a birth mother has even less control in a lot of ways. But me worrying about stepping on toes by asking for a last minute visit less than a month from the last one, I can get over that if it means I can follow through for J. I might not be able to solve them all, but I definitely can do this today.
You guys, it’s the middle of November. In 31 days I will be at a party with M&P and J who will hopefully have presents from me to open. I have not thought one stitch what those presents might be.
In the past three years I have spent months planning presents, the first year I knew what I was doing back in August/Sept. for J but that in part was because I was making him a gift. I’ve made a lot of the gifts for both J and for M&P. For me it was the way to combat not spending a ton of money and the things I’ve given them be meaningful. But there are only so many of my craft projects they would want, they aren’t the type to collect stuff (people with New York apartments can’t have that luxury) and the things they have are really nice. I just feel overwhelmed coming up with ideas of what they would want.
A friend tonight brought up that I should get them a night out (to whatever I think they would like) with the idea that I would also babysit for them while they are doing that. In some realm that’s a great idea, except I’ve never sat for J and pushing that point is something I’m not comfortable doing. They know I’m capable, they know I am willing, they can reach out and ask or they can not. So far they have not. That’s okay.
So I’m left with what to get a animal loving 3 year old and his two parents.
Here’s a few things as I’ve been thinking of it today that I’ve come up with.
For J, I was thinking I could give a donation to a zoo, I know the National Zoo will let you “adopt” an animal and then send a gift basic with a toy of that animal, which to me seems like a cool way to do something good and connect it back to J’s world. The thing is I haven’t found a similar thing on the NYC Zoos websites, maybe it’s there and I need to look more, but I think doing something like that needs to attach to a local place so he could go and visit the animal, etc.
Another idea was to buy a cooking class for P and J, they seem to love to cook together and I thought it might be a great gift for the two of them. But M isn’t really into cooking so much so I would need to think of something else for him, I don’t know of another Dad and kid activity that would be as enjoyable for them. I don’t know what’s out there either so that doesn’t make it easier.
I’m also not sure about the class thing in that I think J will want something to open, and although I would still get him a book and an ornament, those aren’t that exciting. It seems like going to a class or activity might be a little abstract.
I could just buy him something to do with dinosaurs or penguins or cows or any of his other obsessions. I’m sure he would love it, but it would fade into all the other things he has. It feels like it’s getting harder to get gifts because it’s harder to find those things that will actually mean something beyond just a nice new toy.
Any advice on things to get for a 3 year old would be appreciated.
For the third year in a row I am participating in the Adoption Interview Project – a chance for bloggers with an adoption connection to meet another blogger, ask them questions and expose them to their readership. This year I was matched with Jessie from Then I Laughed. Jessie has been writing under a wide range of topics for the last few years including special needs parenting, parenting large families, and being in a relatively new marriage. But Jessie also talks about adoption – she comes to the world of adoption from several different angels. She is a adoptive Mother to a 5 year old names Sylas and a step mother (which she refers to as being a Bonus Mother) to 5 children, she is a social worker that has worked with foster children, and she is an adoptee who began an open adoption while she was a teenager and stays in close contact with her birth mother to this day. Her diverse perspectives and her sense of humor about the highs and lows of life was a refreshing addition to my blog reader. I hope you enjoy reading her answers to the questions as I did asking them. Once you’re done getting to know Jessie, head over to her blog and read my answers to her questions. Also I encourage you to take the opportunity to meet some new bloggers by checking out the other participants in the Interview Project, both the ones who are posting today and check back here for the next two weeks to see the additional rounds of interviews. But first, here’s Jessie:
I have had a blog of some type since 2000. My blog, www.pictureofmyworld.blogspot.com, was where I was blogging previously. Life had gotten busy parenting a special needs toddler, managing a house that was too big for us and working two jobs. So the blog had fallen to the wayside and I wasn’t posting much. After the house fire I honestly had a lot more free time. When you don’t have a big house to keep clean and you don’t have many possessions you end up with a lot of free time. I also felt like after the fire it was a fresh start for for us. It was very therapuetic to start the blog while we were going through such a transition. I was mainly hoping that the blog would help me process it all and stay focused on the positive.
It was a crazy transition! In all honesty now that we are a year into the marriage I am just beginning to feel like I’ve caught my breath. I think the most unexpected part for me was how vulnerable I felt. I am fiercly independant and have always tended to guard my heart. So to fall in love was a very vulnerable feeling. Then I felt incredibly vulnerable parenting in a blended family and trying to navigate relationships with my bonus kids and my husband’s ex. I had always thought I didn’t care what people thought of me. But for the first time in my life I cared tremendously about how the kids and their mom felt about me. I wanted them to like me and I wanted to bond and that was just a vulnerable overwhelming feeling. Through that I’ve grown a ton! We have developed our relationship and it has been so worth it! The most unexpected part of the experience is how it’s taught me handle my own feelings and not just push them away.
Oh goodness this is a tough question! I would say that there isn’t one secret ingredient to making this relationship work. One thing that has helped is prayer. I pray every single day for my husband and our marriage. It helps to remind me that my life is no longer just about Sylas and I. The other thing that has helped is when it dawned on me that this marriage is bigger than he and I. There have been times that I wanted to walk away and craved my life with Sylas like crazy. And then I look into those 6 little faces and I’m reminded that this marriage involves 8 of us! I have to suck it up and compromise and work for the good of us all as a group. I’ve let go of some of my independence and in that process realized that it’s not a bad deal. In letting my husband in I’ve found a partner and a HUGE help! Working as a team and not a one woman force of nature has changed my life. We have some pretty impressive skills when we work together. Ray deals with my independence well. He knows I’m opinionated and strong willed. He gives me the space to express myself and challenges me from time to time. At the end of the day we work well together and balance each other out. I would tell you that yes marriage is a compromise and I may not be as independant as I used to be. But I’m also not as exhausted or lonely. It’s been more than worth it! When you find the right person it is still a challenge but it is worth working through.
I did adopt Sylas as a single woman when I was 28. I was ready to parent but I wasn’t in a committed relationship so I decided to pursue adoption. I was adopted and it just made sense to me. I always knew that my family would be formed through adoption. My thinking was that I would adopt an infant first because I did really want to experience parenting a newborn. Then I thought later on I would adopt one or two older kids through the foster care system. I also had the false idea that adopting an infant would be less risk of behaviors or emotional trauma. However, 18 months into parenting my little guy many issues began to come up. It’s now been determined that Sylas has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Sensory Integration Dysfunction.
I think my experience as an adoptee has taught me that children can never have to many people to love them. I grew up in an open adoption surrounded by adults that loved me. I never felt alone or unwanted. That experience has made me very open to parenting in a blended family and gives me the drive to try to maintain healthy supportive relationships among all the adults. That experience has also taught me not to label relationships but to focus on the feeling of relationships. One of my bonus kiddos calls me mom when I’m at his school and calls me Jessie at home. He does this so he doesn’t have to explain things to his peers. He and I have talked a lot about how he can call me anything he wants as long as it is nice. I don’t want the kids to ever feel boxed into labeling what we are. They know I love them, I know they love me. We don’t need to label our relationship to make anyone else feel comfortable.
My birthmom Karla and I are very close. We talk regularly and she has been at all the monumental moments in my adult life. I’ll never forget walking into my college graduation and seeing her dressed in this beautiful bright dress cheering and crying like a crazy lady. When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer Karla was there. When it came time for my mom’s funeral, Karla was there. When I brought Sylas K home, she was there. And at my wedding I’m so thankful she was there and did a reading and shared in that day! When I look at Karla I see me. We look alike and laugh alike. What I love about Karla is that she came into our relationship open to whatever may be. She never pushed me or made me feel like we had to have a certain kind of relationship. She let it develop over time and just loved me unconditionally.Before I met Karla my mom and dad had always spoken highly of my birth parents. They talked about how much they loved me and wanted me but weren’t ready to parent yet. I think because of that I had a healthy view of adoption and a really positive regard for them. So when I met her and we began developing our relationship it just reaffirmed to me that adoption was a beautiful way to build our family. However, I could also recognize Karla’s pain. She missed me, she missed a good portion of my life, and she had done so much of that grieving by herself. I also learned the entire story surrounding my adoption and realized that some unethical things happened and some very unsupportive things happened in that process that made the situation even more difficult for her. I think it helped me realize how important it is for all parties in adoption to have ongoing support and ethical professionals involved in the process.
Oh race! My goodness this is a revolving topic at our house. Sylas was about 18 months old the first time we tackled race. We were sitting at the dinner table and pointed at my hand and said you have vanilla but my hand is chocolate. Starting that day I began the discussion about how we are all different and how boring this world would be if we were all the same. It comes up fairly often and we talk about how even though we look different on the outside our hearts are the same. Sylas has an amazing sense of humor and that helps. Just the other day he asked me if when we die and go to heaven if we will be perfect. I assured him that yes, when we get to heaven God will heal us and we will be made perfect. He smiled and said “Oh good, then you will be brown like me!” I love that he is so self confident and comfortable being himself. That tells me we are off to a good start.I won’t lie, I totally struggle with him being the only brown child we have. It’s probably more of an issue for me than it is for him. He LOVES his new siblings so much that he doesn’t care that they look different. Since we will be adopting in the future we talk about that a lot and Sylas does ask that we get a brown baby like him. There is a little boy in our neighborhood that Sylas brought home to play with and he walked in and said “Look ma, he is brown like me, can we keep him.” So he obviously wants another person of color around but I don’t think it’s something that is hurting him right now. We do make it a point to expose all our kids to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. We want them to feel comfortable and confident around all different types of people.
YES! We still want to adopt! I’m so ready for a baby in this house that I can’t stand it. I always said when Sylas turned 5 I would adopt again. He was 5 in MARCH! I’ve got baby fever going crazy. Our home study is approved and we were getting our “profile” all finished when my husband injured his back at work. He has several ruptured discs and needs to have surgery. So we are on hold right now. But I’m telling ya as soon as he is better we are going on the match list. This will be a domestic infant adoption, of hopefully a multi racial infant. In the process of adopting Sylas I had 3 failed adoptions. One of those was through an agency that didn’t refund your money but puts you back on the waiting list. I then matched with Sylas through another agency. So this will be our only infant adoption as a married couple. After this I would like to adopt through the foster care system. I would really like to adopt another older child that has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I’d love it if our family ended up looking like a melting pot of a variety of races and ethnicities.
I heard from M&P today. Mostly it was a short update and a chance to check in about what was happening for the holidays. As always, they will have a tree trimming family party that I’m invited to, and they wanted to make sure I got the date in my calendar. But that wasn’t the only reason they wrote.
They also asked if I would go with them and J to see his first Broadway show this winter. It is their Christmas present to me. They wanted to figure out dates before they looked into tickets.
It is a really amazing thing for them to do. Theater of any kind is a part of who I am, it’s been a huge part of my life for the last 20 years. M&P have always known that. It means a lot that they would make sure I’m there for the first time J sees the magic of theater and allow me to share this love with him.
I wasn’t there for J’s first steps, or his first words, I wasn’t around for his first hair trim, or his first Christmas. There is a lot I will miss in J’s life. But there are some moments which would mean a little more for me to be a part of, and this is one of them.
Because M&P know me as well as they do, they understood how important this might be to me. And without my asking they assumed that I should be there, because it would mean something to me, but also because this is an amazing way I can share a part of who I am with J.
This may be one of the most thoughtful best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.
I slept in today. Like seriously slept in where I got up at 8am, and pretty immediately went back to sleep for an additonal almost three hours. I can’t remember the last time I’ve slept that late.
I needed it though, yesterday was an 18 hour day which included work and a work party but before any of that happened I went up to Hartford. I was out of my house around 7:30 to grab a quick breakfast sandwich and catch the bus to get to Grand Central in enough time to catch the commuter train up to Connecticut. There a fellow birthmom blogger picked me up at the train station and we drove to Hartford where we met up with a couple more blogger friends at the screening of A Girl Like Her.
The movie, followed by a Q&A with Ann Fessler was quite an experience. I have to admit I haven’t read The Girls Who Went Away although after hearing Ann speak I know I need to. In part I never picked it up because I had spoken to many women from this era, I thought I had heard the stories. But there are so many voices out there, so many women with this heartache who lived during this time, the more we listen the more they feel heard.
The truth is sometimes when I hear the stories and talk of those from the Baby Scoop Era I wonder where I fit in with all of it. I have such a different set of details, I wasn’t taken to a home by my parents, I wasn’t in high school or college, heck I was 5 years out of the Grad school. I wasn’t pressured by anyone but myself. At the event Ann gave away badges, some of which said I am A Girl Like Her. I wore it until I left the theater, but once I got on the train and started the ride home I pulled it out and looked at it. Looked at all the young faces of women whose lives were changed without their control. Am I a girl like her?
I know their grief, but I also know what it feels like have that grief be because of a decision I made without pressure from my parents. I know what it’s like to have the responsibility for others grief – of JD, of my family, of JD’s family, of future generations who now have a much more complicated history. All responsibility for my son’s relinquishment comes back to me, I have to shoulder that as well. Sometimes I think of what it must have been like to a child taken from you without allowing you the voice to stop it. There are many women who felt that, there are many men who felt it as well. I thought there must be nothing worse than having no voice in your child’s relinquishment, to feel like the grief was forced on you. But now I wonder, as horrible as having no voice would be, sometimes I just want someone else to blame for my child not being with me, and when I’m in that space the only person I can lay blame on is myself. That is it’s own kind of difficulty.