I spent some time Sunday night with Ms B on the phone. We were supposed to be making plans for Firefly's birthday, but kept getting sidetracked into this and that. Chatting about small things and remembering how different everything was this time last year. We eventually did force ourselves back on track and managed to schedule some birthday events. (Firefly is getting two birthday parties this year, lucky duck--one at our home and one in Ms B's home town.)
I'm continually surprised by how easy things are with Ms B. I don't mean that this past year has been a piece of cake for her, but just that our relationship is so free of drama. It's easy to talk to her about things both shallow and deep, without censoring myself. I don't have to debrief every interaction with her in my mind. I don't check where I am emotionally before picking up the phone to call her.
Those may seem like strange things to say, unless you know that (a) I hate talking on the phone and (b) it hasn't been so easy with some (just some) of the people in Puppy's first families. A few of those relationships are exhausting for me, and until recently I took almost all of the responsibility for that onto myself. I looked at other adoptive parents who seemed to move so easily and confidently in their open adoptions and told myself that I fell short of their high mark. I couldn't understand why I kept having to work through the same emotions time after time after time after time. Why my gut reactions were so often defensive. I wondered if I was just too threatened by the thought of sharing parenthood, too insecure about my triad role to do open adoption well. I can't tell you how many times I came down on myself, wondering why I couldn't make this just work already.
(The irony of course being that I would never, ever have told another adoptive parent that they're to blame when open adoption feels hard to do. Or a first parent or adoptee for that matter. Open adoption is worthwhile, but sometimes emotionally bumpy. )
And then B came along and I geared up for more hard and it just never came. I feel like this past year with her has been one big eye-opening experience. I feel more confident than I ever have. Because I'm the same person in Firefly's adoption that I am in Puppy's and yet everything else about it has been different. I'm finally able to separate out what is about adoption and what is about me and what is about things wholly out of my control--and realizing that the struggles of the past three years haven't been all my fault. And not in a blame-shifting, point-fingers-at the-other-parties way. Just finally realizing that there are some ways we have to make the best of a hard situation with Puppy's adoption. And that maybe we've actually been doing a decent job.
Before I had another open adoption to compare things to, I didn't realize just how small I had allowed myself to feel, how much dysfunction I had excused in the name of compassion. I didn't really believe, deep down, that openness could ever come easily to me. It is the outcome I never expected nor even realized I needed, that our second adoption would begin to bring health to the first.