A note from Heather: I'm thrilled to announce that this round will be hosted (faciliated? edited? curated?) by Thanksgivingmom of I Should Really Be Working. Thanksgivingmom placed her daughter for adoption three years ago this month. Her blog is a gem; she has that rare combination of strong opinions crossed with sensitivity to other adoption plane members. I always enjoy her thoughtful posts about working out her identity as a first mom and what it has been like for her to build an open adoption after the fact (she wasn't involved in choosing her daughter's adoptive mother and didn't meet her until after the placement).
And now I'll turn the floor over to Thanksgivingmom...
This is a topic that is very timely for me (Thanksgivingmom) right now, but is something that all of us in open adoption deal with at least once during the year: birthdays.
I know that birthdays can be an extremely emotional time, for everyone connected to adoption, not just those of us in open adoptions. So what is it that we do, as part of our open adoptions, during the “birthday season”?
Our experiences on this are so diverse, that I don’t want to limit your responses to one specific question. BUT, since some of us (like me!) sometimes like the specific questions, here are a few that have been rattling around in my brain as my daughter’s third birthday approaches:
- What do you/your family do to integrate open adoption and birthday celebrations?
- What do you wish you would see in future birthday celebrations re: involvement with your child’s adoptive parents/birth parents?
- Do you have an open adoption agreement that requires contact on/around birthdays?
- How does that agreement affect you? Do you wish it were different? Do you wish that you did have an agreement that requires such contact?
- If you do not have contact around birthdays, do you do something private to honor birthdays?
- If you’re an adoptee, how were birthdays celebrated in your family with regards to open adoption?
- How do you wish they would have been celebrated?
- And anything else you can think of!
Barely Sane (adoptive Mom) @ Infertility Licks writes: "Again, MG is too young to really "get it" just yet but as time goes on, the timing of these gifts will not go unnoticed and I think it will be significant for MG to know she isn't forgotten on that day."
Susie (first Mom) @ Endure for a Night writes: (on attending her placed son's birthday party) "If we can’t make it, I would like to call. Of course, that’s not exactly right; in some ways, I want to not call or go or have any kind of contact. I want to grieve and mope and feel sorry for myself. But since I keep reminding myself that this is a child-centered open adoption, I want to want to do the right thing by Cricket."
Jess (adoptive Mom) @ The Problem with Hope writes: "Birthdays are an extremely special and sentimental thing around here....and I don't think that I'd ever want to "separate" her birthday from her birth family (as if that's even possible!!)."
Debbie (adoptive Mom) @ Always and Forever Family writes: (on birthday/holiday visits as part of an open adoption agreement) "Given that M is the quiet type I'm glad we have that established so that we don't have to wonder about a visit around those times. Sure schedules and distance might be an issue but I know we'll always try to visit around Isabel's birthday and Christmas."
Robyn C (adoptive Mom) @ Adoption Blogs writes: "I always think of S as Jack’s birthday grows near. Every year, I remember how we wouldn’t have Jack if it weren’t for S. We wouldn’t be a family without her. I think about what Jack’s life or our lives might be like and shudder."
You Never "Get Over It" (first Mom) writes: "I have often toyed with the idea of having some kind of ritual for his birthday (preferably one that requires me to stay home and NOT go to work), but I just don’t know WHAT. Nothing really brings me any peace about him being gone. I have yet to find any ritual, any ANTHING that makes my soul less raw, my emotions less fragile on his birthday."
Dawn (adoptive Mom) @ This Woman's Work writes: "To me, Madison’s birthdays are very symbolic of the progression of our open adoption. Caution at the beginning. Trying to figure out boundaries. Pennie’s tentative attempts to create her own celebrations. Then finally a merging of our friends/families and public recognition of Pennie’s presence in our family and her relationship to Madison."
Leigh (first Mom) @ Sturdy Yet Fragile writes: "Her birthday, and the fall season/Thanksgiving bring on mixed emotions for me. In many ways I can get upset if I let myself think too much about our couple short days together and the horrible moment when I had to physically hand her over. But for the last few years, I also looked forward to her birthday, as it meant I would soon be receiving an update and some pictures."
Ginger (first Mom) @ Puzzle Pieces: Adoption writes: "The years I haven't...it's not that I don't care. It's that their birthdays are hard for me. It's that picking out a birthday card that's suitably neutral and inoffensive is emotionally exhausting for me. It's not simple. Nothing is simple."
Jenna (first Mom) @ The Chronicles of Munchkinland writes: "Birthdays are probably the hardest day of my yearly adoption journey. And yet, at the same time, I welcome them for they mean that my beautiful daughter is another year older. It means that I’ve spent another year getting to know her in various ways. It means that I get to celebrate her presence in my life. I can ignore the general melancholy of the day for the most part if I know that my daughter has remained in my life for yet another year.
Family of Three (adoptive Mom) writes: "Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that FirstMom is setting aside her current challenges to make the effort to be here for Sassy will ring much more clearly than my reminders someday to Sassy that FirstMom does love and care about her."