February 19, 2007

Answering for Another

It happened again this weekend. Someone asking, after a reference to Puppy's birthmom, "So, how is she doing with all this?"

The question is loaded with subtext. Their "all this" encompasses the entirety of the adoption, the placement, the openness. They want a peek behind the curtain of relinquishment and I am the closest they can get. Some wonder how K goes on when a piece of her now lives with us. They question whether our ongoing contact can bring anything but pain to her and worry to us. They're looking for a hint that, surely, this open adoption is just a bit too much for everyone. Others want to hear that she has "moved on." They want affirmation that in this adoption there were no losers.

It is difficult to know how to answer. K has been honest, if not detailed, with us about the fact that not parenting Puppy has brought her times of deep grief in the past year. She has also said that she has not once regretted her decision. I know that we are likely not the ones with whom she would share her doubts. Our relationship is too young, and the stakes too high, to put those "what if"s on the table just yet. Of course I wonder if they are there, or if they will be there in the future. But what else can I do but take her at her word? Who am I to second-guess her emotions?

My answer must walk the tightrope of adoption myths, for my slightest mistep will trigger them in their minds. Dwell too much on the grief, and she twists into a bitter mother hating herself for giving up her child, hating us for taking him from her. Too much emphasis on what is going well and we are suddenly in a shiny, happy adoption in which everyone has moved on and nobody hurts, isn't life wonderful? I resist reducing her, and us, and the complicated thing that is our open adoption to a stereotype.

In the end I remain vague, uncomfortable answering on her behalf. I say that I only know what she has told us, and it has been difficult but she is doing well. I talk about how much we enjoy having her in our lives and how glad we are she is committed to being in Puppy's life. I try to bring her to life as a real person. But every time I answer I feel I have somehow let her down.

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