September 30, 2008

This Isn't Covered in Any of My Books

You guys are amazing. Really, really amazing. Thank you for being so nice.

I think I misled you a little when I said we had an odd combination of first parent interactions. Each separate interaction wasn't odd, it was all of them happening on the same weekend that felt so bizarre. It was adoption overload for awhile there. Two interactions were completely normal and understandable, just required us to be very emotionally present. One was unbloggable. The fourth was quite unexpected. I'm a little unsure about writing about it, but I think I can fairly share the bare bones of the part that trickles into my world.

Puppy's first mom, K, is four months pregnant. As a ges.tational surr.ogate.

In my wildest imaginings, I did not see this one coming. After I got over my surprise at the news, I had a couple of reactions.

I'm concerned that carrying, birthing and handing over the baby to the intended parents could trigger difficult memories and emotions connected to Puppy's adoption. Emotions for which she is not preparing and for which she has little support. That worries me.

I'm frustrated that everyone else in her life allegedly thinks this is a wonderful idea with no possible downside.

I keep thinking about this phone call from last year.

But what really has me thinking is how this might affect Puppy. Because, in the end, as much as I care about K's well-being, it's not my responsibility. But Puppy is my responsibility and I don't know how to explain this to him. I feel like I would know where to begin with other scenarios: pregnant and parenting, pregnant and placing with us, pregnant and placing with someone else. But this? I'm casting about for a place to start.

We will be seeing her in a few months when she'll be quite far along. And even if Puppy didn't notice the pregnancy (he can be pretty clueless about body shapes) I know it will come up in conversation when we're with her, not to mention in years to come. I'm not going to make a big deal of it with him, but I do want to be prepared to talk about it.

We talk about his adoption with him in different ways, but frequently come back to some basic elements: you grew inside of K, K and R took care of you then, after you were born they decided we would be your parents and you came to live with us. At his age, we are trying to communicate (a) that K and R are important to us because his life started with them and (b) that his movement into our family had their blessing. There is a picture of the four of us in his room from the day T and I met R and K while K was still pregnant. If you ask him where he is in the picture, he points at K's mid-section, saying, "In there!" All that to say that his understanding of adoption right now is pretty focused on the pregnancy-birth-placement progression.

Now we have a situation which, on the face of it, looks exactly like adoption as it's been explained to him. I don't know how to communicate to a three-year old the difference between surrogacy and placing a newborn for adoption:
  • there is a baby growing inside of K, where you grew
  • but that baby is not your sibling
  • nor is that baby K's baby
  • and when that baby is born, he/she will go live with his/her parents
  • but K won't be that baby's birth mom
  • and this is not what happened with you
The difference has to do with intentionality, genetics and technology, all of which are a little beyond his ken. I don't anticipate an intense emotional reaction from Puppy to this, although one never knows. But I'm worried that this will minimize the significance of first parents in his mind. That he'll think birth moms are essentially equivalent to surrogates.

Or maybe he'll just take it all at face value and not make a connection to his own story. But the way he wanted to talk again and again about Firefly's placement makes me doubt it.

So, what would you do?


Andromeda Jazmon said...

Every time we think we might be getting a handle on something it goes to the next level, right? You sure are are dealing with complexities.

I suspect that when you just explain it matter-of-factly Puppy will accept it as it is. He won't understand it all for years (if ever) but he will just take it as his reality - like everything else. Kids usually don't see the full implications so they can take it at the level they are. Blessings...

Linda said...

I definitely agree that he's not going to understand it. I think the reason he keeps asking is not because he's struggling to wrap his mind around surrogacy, it's because he wants to make sense of his own story and hear that over and over. So maybe when you explain Firefly's story, you could just end with his story each time?

I don't know, I'm just grasping at straws here. I agree with Cloudscome, he's not going to really get it until he's much older. But I don't think it will devalue firstparents in his eyes. You guys do too much to place value on them in other aspects of his life for this one scenario to upset all the other work you do. The long-term relationship has the strength to withstand any faulty notions on that count.


Anonymous said...

Gah. Can you grab her the book Choice (with the pregnancy test on the front) and just have her read the FIRST STORY in which the surrogate loses EVERYTHING? Perhaps it might be a catalyst to realize that she needs some support during this time? I don't know. Sur.rogacy scares me.

I am not envious of you right now. That's something I wouldn't want to explain to my parented children, let alone to have someone else explain to my relinquished daughter.

You'll be in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That is interesting and complicated.

And I agree with cloudscome that he will accept what you tell him as it is.

Dawn said...

What would I *do*? Freak out. Cry. Wring my hands. Worry excessively. I'm with Firemom re., surrogacy. I know that there is a high number of sexual abuse survivors among surrogate (not making assumptions about all women, obviously) but I think it speaks to a grappling to feel in control and in light of the conversation you guys had ... yes, I'm worried, too.

I know that you will handle it beautifully with Puppy because you do handle things beautifully. I don't know if that's any reassurance but listen, your instincts are so DEAD ON that I'd trust them on this.

I dearly hope that she gets some support and I'm angry that any infertility clinic didn't screen her OUT.

a Tonggu Momma said...

I agree with cloudscome. He will accept it as his reality - he doesn't know any differently. I would suggest telling the truth and keeping it as simple as possible. That way, as his understanding of the topic deepens, your words remain consistent, just grow more detailed.

While we - sadly - don't have interaction with our daughter's birthparents, we do have to tackle some tough topics early on (abanondment, China's one-child policy, cultural preference for boys). I've learned through listening to and later teaching lifebook writing workshops that we can only provide the truth, then add more details as they ask.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Yikes! I hate typos. That would be abandonment...

Andy said...

I'm trying to look at this through my adoptee eyes.... keep in mind I grew up in a closed adoption.

I can't imagine finding out that my mother purposfully creating another lose, another family member the *I* have lost, because even with the genetics and what not of surrogacy, *I* would consider that person to be a sibling.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is a tough one.

I don't think I have anything new to add, unfortunately. I think you just have to give him the bare bones of what he can understand and keep feeding him information about it as he gets older and more able to appreciate the differences between adoption and surrogacy.

Unknown said...

Yowza. This is a complicated situation. However, I agree with the other comments that Puppy will most likely take it as it is, and won't understand the complexities of the situation just yet. I think I would try to explain that K is giving life to another baby (as she gave life to him) and another set of parents will raise that child. Do you think he'll bring up the issue of having a sibling? If so, and Puppy makes a connection to this baby as his sibling, then how comfortable or uncomfortable would you feel with him having that association (even while you don't see the baby as his sibling)?

Yikes - and K needs some serious support now, and will continue to need it into the future. But I agree, this isn't your responsibility. I hope that she'll be able to find the support she needs.

luna said...

wow, that's a doozy. I agree with the other commenters that he will accept the simple version at face value. and I'm sure you two will handle it with grace.

Clementine said...

Geez, that's not covered in any of my books, either. Wow. That's a lot to think about.

I've been reading your blog for a while now, and your love for your children shines through your writing. Whatever you and your husband choose to tell Puppy about this situation, both now and as he gets older, I know that you will handle those conversations with grace and good faith. I'm also sure that you'll continue to honor his first parents and their place in his life, and you'll support Puppy fully as he discovers how he feels about all of this.

Best wishes as you come to terms with all these changes.

abebech said...

It seems like she thinks on some level being a surrogate this time will make Puppy's placement easier and more justified in retrospect. But how can it not be another loss for her, and for Puppy someday on some level?

It isn't you that will confuse the issue for Puppy -- the issue of surrogacy in any case is confusing. Her desire to associate her relinquishment of Puppy with a planned relinquishment will someday be very complicated for him -- but not right now. Right now he will trust your version of his story, your understanding of his first mother's importance in his life. And later, he'll have some tough questions -- possibly, even, for her.

Cole Hanson said...

Time to write a book, I guess ? Are you writing it ?
ICLWeek September 21st - 28th

Lori said...

Kids at this age are amazingly pragmatic. Thankfully so! I would follow Puppy's lead and simply answer his questions honestly and directly. Good luck!

cynthia said...

oh my god heather. this really falls under the category of nothing you could ever anticipate. i feel so sad for all of you on reading this, i just do.
sending support, and no good ideas yet. i'll try for some when i can get my own situation straight.

cynthia said...

p.s. oh and yeah, what dawn said about the fertility clinic not screening her out? wtf???

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