April 20, 2010

On Paper, In Reality

I have to say, I really appreciate the comments and emails on my last post. I admit was uneasy about writing it; I'm constantly feeling out where the privacy boundaries (both the kids' and their first parents') are in talking about our family's open adoptions.

One small follow-up: Many of you commented on how hard this must be. It's true that it's not easy to watch someone you care about in crisis. And obviously anything I've felt pales in comparison to what they are going through. But I think I may have given the wrong impression. If I had to rank the four different relationships we have with the kids' first parents, from smoothest to roughest? Our relationship with the parent in that post would come in as the easiest. Hands down, no contest.

It's true that the instability in their life and how it affects their relationship with their kiddo sometimes weighs on me. I worry about them when things are bad. The practical side of contact can be tricky. The money stuff stresses me out sometimes, because deciding boundaries sucks and generosity is still a discipline in many ways for me. But the actual relationship at its core is really, really good. For the simple reason that they trust and respect us enough to be honest with us, and vice versa.

I'm not saying we know every detail of their life or their thoughts on the adoption, nor should we. Not at all. But if we call to invite them to visit--or even just to chat--and they aren't in a place to deal with adoption, they tell us. They've gently offered ways we could be more helpful in our triad role and extended grace when we've fallen short. If they're going to move or their phone is getting shut off, they try to let us know ahead of time. There may be things to work through or figure out, but I'm never second-guessing myself or wondering what they are thinking about this open adoption we've got going. I don't worry that they're picking apart my letters, looking for hidden meanings. There's no manipulation or evasiveness. If they're out of touch for awhile because of life stuff or for their own mental/emotional health, I usually know why and I have faith that they'll be back when they can. That kind of communication means so much to me.

We've got a good foundation started. I really do trust that we're all in it for the long haul, because we care about and enjoy each other and--most importantly--we care about our shared child's well-being. None of us are going to storm off forever in a huff because of some real or imagined slight. And that makes all the difference in the world.

You don't know how much I wish I could say the same about some of the kids' other birth family members.

Now that I think about it, had we been handed little written profiles of their first parents when we were matched, they way they were for us, it's the ones whose write-ups would have included "red flags" or "challenges" (to use two favorite adoption agency phrases) who have ended up being our best relationships. By far.

It just goes to show you that there's really no formula to open adoption, no way of predicting how any particular open adoption will turn out. And our family's adoptions are still so very young. We've yet to see how things will shift and change as our lives continue, and as the kids grow and add their own choices to the mix. There's a lot of story here still left to be written. But right now I'm very glad this particular first parent is part of it.

April 16, 2010


One of our children's first parents is homeless. I should say currently homeless; there have certainly been more times in their life when they did have housing than when they didn't. But they had been homeless for a stretch in the years before we met them and, sadly, are again at the moment.

Poverty is, of course, part and parcel of homelessness. It's also not always as simple as a lack of cash. It would be ridiculous to think that money had nothing to do with them not raising their child. But there is a lot going on with our loved one, a tangle of disability, unemployment, addiction and recovery, mental illness, broken support systems and more. I don't even pretend to be able to tease out what is cause and what is effect in all that.

They are safe right now, thank goodness, in what seems like a really good long-term shelter program. Now the part of my brain that was absorbed with worrying about them has started thinking about why it is that I've been reluctant to talk about what has been this hugely influential piece of our open adoption.

I can count on one hand the people in my life who know about this first parent's housing challenges. We've tried to be sensitive to the fact that they struggle with embarrassment over their situation and don't want people to know if it can be helped. When they're visiting we'd never want them to feel like our friends are looking at them as The Homeless Birth Parent. And we've thought about the fact that although it's something our child probably wouldn't care if people knew right now, they may choose to keep to themselves once they hit school age. I suppose I've wanted to protect their privacy here, as well.

We were fairly involved during a recent crisis period, at least as much as we could be from a distance. There were some emotional late-night phone calls that Puppy was very aware of. Todd and I talked a lot about what was going on and how we might help, and Puppy listened. The thought of someone you know not having a home is pretty scary when you are little. (Hell, it's scary to me as an adult.) He and I talk about it sometimes still, even though the crisis has passed. If nothing else, I hope he's picked up that his and Firefly's birth families are family, and that we approach helping them out the same way we would other family members. There's not a separate category. (Although even that isn't so simple. One thing we talked about was them maybe living with us for awhile. But they knew it would be too much for them right now to be living right in the middle of the adoption like that. So in some ways it's not just like any other family.)

It has pushed at our pre-conceived ideas about what a flourishing open adoption looks like. The most important pieces--mutual respect, honesty, trust--are there. But then there are all the things you might expect a good relationship to include: maybe sharing pictures, chatting frequently, spending time together in person, exchanging presents. There's an assumption of a heck of a lot of stability on both sides there. We've had to figure out how to send pictures to someone who doesn't have internet access or a consistent address. How to keep in touch when there's no email and phones sometimes get shut off. What sorts of gifts to give when they don't have a lot of space to call their own, or when they're struggling to meet their basic needs. The logistics of visiting when they don't have access to transportation.

Sometimes, especially in the last several months, all that is going on in their life has simply been so overwhelming that they haven't been able to handle the emotions of visiting us. So then there is the added sadness of them missing out on time with their child. They wish they could put together big boxes of birthday presents like other birth parents they know, or come to visit more often. On both sides I think we're trying to figure out how we show our love, trying to figure out the practicals of maintaining a healthy, strong connection given everything else that is going on.

Money did influence and continues to influence the shape of our open adoption, in ways I never expected.

This is my contribution to the latest open adoption roundtable.

April 14, 2010

Open Adoption Roundtable #15

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Publish your response during the next two weeks--linking
 back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs--and leave a link to your post in the comments. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I'd appreciate it if you'd add a link back to the roundtable. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

Has everyone recovered from the Interview Project? Ready to start up the roundtable again? I hope so, because I've had some really intriguing topic suggestions sent in lately.

The prompt for this round comes from the very dear mama2roo of Letters to a Birthmother:

Does money have an impact on your open adoption? If so, how? (Could be issues pre- or post-placement, expectations, assumptions, costs of visit activities, travel, gifts--you name it.)

April 08, 2010

Q&A: Adopting Again?

Asks Susiebook of Endure for a Night (with whom I recently closed out a Starbucks and who is both lovely and gracious):
Under what circumstances, if any, would you adopt again?
You're trying to get me in trouble, aren't you? Heh.
  • If we were ever asked to adopt a sibling of Puppy or Firefly. I really don't ever see this happening--nor do I want it to happen, because how awful for whichever first parent involved--but there it is.

  • If we do end up doing foster care (we're registered to start the certification process this summer as sort of an exploratory thing) and if a child in our home became available for adoption and if we were the best permanent spot for them. Those are three pretty enormous ifs.

  • If I ever found a progressive, ethically respectable, reasonably priced program somewhere that primarily placed African-American children and worked with residents of my state. But even then I'm not sure.
If I selfishly think only about our household, I would love to adopt transracially again. Then I take our little household and put it back into the bigger world in which adoption involves the real lives of other real people and real open adoption relationships and real moral conundrums and real money and real emotions and all of a sudden I don't know what I want.

For those keeping track, Puppy has downgraded his original request for two brothers and two more sisters to just one additional sister. He also specifies that he needs to stay the oldest. During his haircut the other week, the stylist asked him he had any brothers or sisters in addition to Firefly. He told her, "No, just her. But we're thinking of getting some more."* Apparently he's got this under control.

* No, of course Todd and I don't talk about "getting more" kids. That's the four-year old talking.

April 07, 2010

Adoption Book Club: The Blind Side

I'm an incurable procrastinator, have been all my life. And here I am again, squeezing out my contribution to the adoption book club organized by The Egg Drop Post before I fall asleep. For this first round we read The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, currently in the news because of the movie, the Oscar and the starlet with the cheating husband.

April 05, 2010

Q&A: Our Waits

From Geochick (whose blog title makes me laugh):
Hi, nice to see you back! (Ed. note -- Thanks!) My questions: How long were your waits for Puppy and Firefly? Was the second wait easier than the first? Did you ever feel like you were getting things ready for a baby who may never show up? (We've been waiting 9 months for a match)
I'm trying now to remember when exactly we went "in the book" in our first adoption. It was sometime around May, maybe June? We learned that Kelly and Ray had picked us near the end of August and Puppy was born six weeks later, in October. So our wait was somewhere between four to five months.

The second time, we went in the book in July and were picked out by Beth sometime in the next few weeks. We didn't learn that she was interested in us, though, until September.  We met her for the first time in late October and Firefly was born in February. So about seven months total.

You've already made it further than I had to, so a big hug to you for that. To answer your question, I never felt like it would never happen, but then I didn't face down milestones like the one-year mark or a home-study renewal. We also didn't buy any baby gear or change anything in our house the first time around until we were matched. I was pretty adamant about not wanting visible reminders of the wait, so that I could take mental breaks from it all if I wanted. I wanted to keep living our life just as it was until we could be fairly sure it was about to change. Not that it stopped me from thinking about it every day, several times a day! It took up a pretty big chunk of my inner life. It was definitely hard at times, and I wrote awhile back (during another Q&A, actually) about how I coped with the emotional rollercoaster ride.

The second time around was so different than the first. I wouldn't say it was easy, but it occupied a lot less emotional real estate. I still dreamed about the future, but without quite the same undercurrent of longing. That time our life included Puppy. We weren't waiting to take on this whole new identity as parents.

I can't help but add that it drives me up the wall when adoptive parents who had a tiny blip of a wait get all smug about it, like they're valedictorians of adoption. It's not a competition, as much as some people try to turn it into one. The length of time we wait isn't a reflection on our worthiness, but how we conduct ourselves during the wait can be. The point isn't a fast placement, but one that is right for everyone involved--and that takes honesty, authenticity, patience and a bit of luck. And the nice thing is that, at least for me, the memories of the waiting time started slowly fading away once the parenting had begun.

April 04, 2010

Brushing the Dust Off the Keyboard

Helloooo? Anyone still there?

I've staring at the screen, feeling a bit awkward about getting back into the blogging groove after my little absence. But it is Easter, after all. Time for new beginnings. Let's get this party (re)started.

It's been awhile since we did a round of Q&A. And there are some new folks here after the interview project (hello!) who I'm sure are quite lovely people. So, is there anything you want to ask me? The floor is open for questions.
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