October 31, 2010

Things I Don't Have to Think About Today

Today I don't have to think about leaving the medical history form blank.
Today I don't have to think about a file folder full of information about my early life that I'm not allowed to know.
Today I don't have to think about not getting a passport or a driver's license because my birth certificate "isn't quite right."
Today I don't have to think about not knowing my actual birthday.
Today I don't have to think about being a minority in my own family.

Today I don't have to think about those who decide when and if I get to see my child.
Today I don't have to think about a file folder full of information about my child's life that I'm not allowed to know.
Today I don't have to think about how to answer the question, "How many children do you have?"
Today I don't have to think about a medical professional treating me differently when I answer their questions about pregnancies and number of children at home.
Today I don't have to think about the things they say to my child about me when I'm not there.

Today I don't have to think about politicians debating my right to my original birth certificate.
Today I don't have to think about being deported to a country I don't remember because my parents didn't file a form.
Today I don't have to think about falling in love with someone I have no way of knowing is a genetic relative.
Today I don't have to think about the dollar amounts that were assigned to me because of how I looked, how old I was, or what was in my medical past.
Today I don't have to think about not knowing the name spoken over me at my birth.

Today I don't have to think about people using one of the most painful decisions of my life as ammunition in their debate over abortion.
Today I don't have to think about those who tell me it's confusing or harmful for my own child to know me.
Today I don't have to think about whether people profited from my personal crisis.
Today I don't have to think about people in my life thinking less of me when they find out.
Today I don't have to think about those who believe I'm unworthy of raising any children now.

Today I don't have to think about someone from my family possibly out there searching for me.
Today I don't have to think about whether I'd be breaking state law by reaching out to a relative.
Today I don't have to think about being considered the unofficial spokesperson for adoption.
Today I don't have to think about being written off as "angry" or "bitter" for having feelings about my own life experiences.
Today I don't have to think about being told I should be grateful.

Today I don’t have to think about how much people expect to stay hidden.
Today I don’t have to think about how much stigma keeps hold.
Today I don’t have to think about all the things I don’t have to think about.
But today I will.

All credit (and I do mean all) for the structure, concept, and closing items of this list goes to author John Scalzi and his post of the same title, in which he tried to step outside his daily experience as someone with many layers of overlapping privilege. (Hat tip to OmegaMom for pointing me to it.) It, of course, got me thinking of adoption-related items I would add to his list. All credit for any clumsiness in the execution goes to me.

This is my list of things about which I--an adoptive parent who was not adopted and is not a first parent--don't have to think. Your own list will almost certainly not match mine. There are people who have to think about some of these items for reasons other than adoption. And of course not all individual first parents or adopted persons think about all (or even any) of the things I listed.

October 23, 2010

We Have a Winner

Congratulations to Lisa, winner of the Sleepy Wrap! Lisa wrote,
I would love one of these. We never found a wrap that worked well with our wiggly first child, but I'm hoping to use one more when #2 comes along.
Thanks to everyone who participated!

October 19, 2010

Open Adoption Roundtable #20

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 listed at Open Adoption Bloggers 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--please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Publish your response--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.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly probably saw this prompt coming. Recent comments and emails tell me you all have a lot to say on the topic. I'll leave the prompt nice and broad, so each of us can focus on the sliver most on our minds at the moment.

Write about siblings and open adoption.


The responses:

Anonymous (first mom) writes in the comments about the complicated emotions brought up for her by her son's relationship with his brother on his first dad's side.

Amber (adoptive mom) at Life in the Last Frontier talks about the resistance they're facing from friends and family who don't understand why maintaining sibling relationships is important to them.

Jess (adoptive mom) at The Problem With Hope shares how the strong relationship with her daughter's bio brother influenced the course of their family planning.

Jenna (first mom) at The Chronicles of Munchkin Land points out that her commitment to openness is as much for her (parented) sons as it is for her (placed) daughter.

Susiebook (first mom) at Endure for a Night remembers a year-ago conversation about siblings with her son's adoptive mom, and compares that to the reality during her current pregnancy.

A Life Being Lived (first mom) at Carrying a Cat by the Tail talks about how her daughter's potential adoptive brothers played into her decision to place and facing her fear that she won't have more children.

Rredhead (adoptive mom) at Adoption.com questions the conventional wisdom about explaining placement to her young son, given that he has older and younger siblings parented by his first mom.

Kelly L (adoptive mom) at Surprised by Hope shares why her daughter's birth siblings are called simply brothers and sisters in their home.

Tammy (adoptive mom) at I Can Only Imagine shares how her children's relationships with their siblings are a "painful thing although with great potential to be something marvelous and nurturing with time."

Sonya (adoptive mom) at The Dobbins Boys tells how the, "You have siblings," conversation came about with her adopted son.

Spyderkl (adoptive mom) at Evil Mommy thinks about the possible day her daughter's first mom has another child.

Katjamichelle (first mom) at Therapy Is Expensive wonders what the relationship will look like between her placed son's adoptive brother and her future parented children.

An anonymous adoptive parent shares about her son's anger that is sometimes brought to the surface by the presence of his biological siblings--and how the strength of those same relationships provides an safe outlet for the emotion.

Tracy (adoptive parent) at My Minivan Rocks says that her adopted son's siblings have become the doorway to open adoption, now that contact with his first mom is off the table for a time.

Amber (adoptive parent) at Bumber's Bumblings shares about her family's relationship with a different sort of sibling: her son's first mom's sisters, now doting aunts.

Michelle (adoptive parent) at Grown in My Heart says it was the siblings interactions were the catalyst for the family's whole open adoption relationship to expand and flourish.

October 18, 2010

"I Love My Hair" Has an Adoption Connection

We've enjoyed a few views of the Sesame Street video "I Love My Hair" at our house. I learned tonight that it has a transracial adoption connection: the songwriter (also head writer at Sesame Street) is the white parent of a daughter born in Ethiopia and adopted when she was one year old.
[Joey] Mazzarino says he wrote the song after noticing his daughter playing with dolls.

"She wanted to have long blond hair and straight hair, and she wanted to be able to bounce it around," he tells NPR's Melissa Block.

Mazzarino says he began to get worried, but he thought it was only a problem that white parents of African-American children have. Then he realized the problem was much larger.

I'm too wiped out from the boy's birthday week to draw out any larger points, but I thought that was interesting.

October 15, 2010

At Bedtime

"Mommy, am I your five-year old baby?"

"You are my five-year old baby."

"I'm your BIG baby."

"You're my big, big baby."

"What about when I'm bigger and bigger and an adult?"

"Even when you're 35 and 45 and 75, I'll still be your mommy and you still be my baby."

"Just a giant baby! What about when Mari is bigger?"

"She'll always be my girl-baby and you'll always be my boy-baby."

"Even when I'm 105!"

"Even then."

"I like that."

"Happy birthday, buddy."

October 12, 2010

Babies Have I Worn (+ a Giveaway!)

I planned to publish this for International Babywearing Week, which started on the 6th. Then I spent the majority of that week in an incredibly beautiful and remote part of the country for my brother's wedding. How I thought I would put this together in a spot where internet and computers are scarce, I do not know. Seriously, there wasn't even radio where I was. No AM radio.

But today is still part of Babywearing Week, albeit the last day. So let's just consider this me extending the babywearing fun!

Todd and I are both pretty frequent babywearers. Partly convenience, partly our personalities, partly our parenting style. After swearing I would never be one of those parents wrapped in yards of baby-containing fabric, I...became one of those parents wrapped in yards of fabric. But once I experienced how comfortable and useful it was, there was no going back.

There was a deeper, adoption-related reason that drew me to babywearing, too. I am not going to jump into a bonding/attachment debate in this context. But I'd hope any adoptive parent would agree that we start from scratch as far as familiarity goes between us and our kids. Babywearing can be one great way to build that connection with very young children. It creates a comforting, safe space for most little ones.

Read on for my favorite carriers for each baby stage and get the chance to win one of your own!

October 05, 2010

Speaking of Machatunim

At some point in the middle of last week, Kelly's parents (who are currently raising her second child, Eddie's sister) called to say they would be coming to our state this week and could they swing by for a visit on their way to their destination? Of course we said, "Sure!" We hadn't seen Eddie's sister--who really needs a blog name; she's named after a bird, so let's call her Robin--since she was a newborn, so a visit was long overdue.

I didn't know what Eddie would think about seeing them, since it had been so long and Robin hasn't really been present in his life in any form. But as Sunday drew near he quickly went from matter-of-fact to super-excited. I was prepping in the kitchen right before they came when I overheard Eddie--who was anxiously watching at the bay window for their arrival--say to Mari, "Do you know who Robin is? She's one of my sisters! She's a baby, so you can play with her!" I knew then the afternoon would be really good for him.

And it was. The kids happily played together, the adults snapped photos. Kelly's parents passed on information from the past two years that cleared up all sorts of questions I've had. This was the first time we'd ever spent with them without Kelly there and I think it was a pretty significant step forward in our relationship with them. As our afternoon together ended I was feeling good.

They waited until we were beginning to say our goodbyes in the entryway to drop the bombshell.

Eddie has a brother.

(I really don't like using the password for anything other than picture posts. I will likely make the full post public in the future, but I'm still sorting out what is bloggable and wanted to err on the side of caution for now. Please email me if you'd like the password. I've never deliberately denied it to anyone who's asked, but I'm awful at managing my personal email and I know there have been folks whose requests have accidentally gone unanswered. It is the source of much guilt for me; I mean that seriously. All that to say, please feel free to ask or re-ask for the password.)

October 03, 2010

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Our Birthmother

(With a bashful apology to one of my favorite poets.)


I don't use "our birth parents" when talking about Marian and Eddie's first parents. That's my choice. You may very well make a different one.

But this is about me and my decision. And, I suppose, about the sorts of things that go through my mind when I hear or read "our birthmom" or "our birthparents" or even, as I saw the other week, "our expectant parents".


I am positive if you dig back far enough in my past that you'll find me dropping "our"s all around. Agency #1 used that language constantly when we were going through the training ("When you meet your birth mom...") and we didn't know any better than to parrot it back. (And, no, six years ago it didn't even cross my mind that we shouldn't be talking about expectant parents as birth parents.)

If anything, I remember thinking it was a lot more personable and less cold to talk about "our birth mom" than "the birth mom". It was overwhelming to imagine the then-nameless, faceless stranger who would change our lives, and thinking about her as "our birth mom" made the thought less intimidating. I imagine that was one of the reasons the agency counselors used it with us. Of all the thousands of possibilities, the only ones that would matter would be the ones contained in this specific person we would eventually meet. Talking about "our birth mom" felt safer, smaller. Warmer.


I can't pinpoint as clearly when I stopped using "our". But I think it was soon after Kelly and Ray entered our lives. They were real people, with a real connection to a very real Eddie. They had full lives beyond just their first parent roles, lives that were quite independent of us. As much as we cared for them, it felt odd to refer to them as "our birth parents" as if they belonged to Todd and me in some way. I didn't want to make them smaller.


On a practical tip, "our birth mom" really only works for families with a single adopted child or who adopted siblings. If I said to you, "We're going to see our birth mom next week," you wouldn't know if I meant Kelly or Beth.


Picture your child's first mom. Now imagine her calling you "my adoptive parents." Weird, right?


At the most basic level, they are not our birth parents. They did not create me or Todd. They are our son's birth parents. Our daughter's birth parents. We don't share them with Eddie and Mari. Nor do they share them with each other.

There is something worthy of recognition in that distinction. These are their families by birth and their links to their ancestral heritage. They are their connections to their personal origin stories, to the beginnings of their lives before Todd and I entered the scene. I believe appropriating them as my own family of origin (even symbolically--I know no adoptive parents really mean to say these are their actual birth parents) diminishes the unique relationship they have.


It's been pointed out to me before that people use "our" all the time in ways that aren't demeaning and don't imply ownership: "our accountant" or "our pastor" or "our senator." But all of those do involve relationships of obligation or even employment. They are "ours" because of what they do for us. There is enough imbalance in adoption triad power dynamics as it is without dragging in those overtones.


When people start talking in particularly inflammatory ways about the supposed scarcity of babies to adopt and the difficulty of finding a match, I start picturing frantic prospective adoptive parents shouting, "Get your own birth mom! This one is ours!"


Two summers ago, Eddie and I were killing time during during a car ride with a game. It combined two activities he enjoyed at the time: naming people in our extended family and pairing people up relationally. For instance, I'd say, "I love Grandma!" and he'd respond, "I love Grandpa!"

Enthralling, I know. But it kept the three-year old happy.

We had gone back and forth through all sort of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, when I got to, "I love Kelly!" Expecting, of course, to hear, "I love Ray!" in return.

Instead Eddie scrunched his face into a frown. "No!" he said immediately. "She's mine!"

His possessiveness over her in the car was surprising. I acknowledged that she was his very own, and it also led into a good discussion of how family can overlap, how Grandma and Grandpa are Daddy's parents and your grandparents, but they are also special to me and so on. But, thinking back later on his intense claim on her, I was very glad he had never heard me call her "our birth mom".


Logically, the only people who can talk about "our birth mother" are biological siblings who were placed for adoption. They do, indeed, share a first parent or two.


Someday my kids will grow up and their relationships with their first parents will be something separate from Todd and me. More often than not, their visits and chats won't include us. Would I still talk about them as "our birth parents" then? Somehow "our birth parents" seems to a part of the early childhood years, when--as with all their relationships--all their contact with their first families is solidly in our domain.


I live in the world of open domestic adoptions, which is where I hear "our birthmom" the most. I wonder, are we the only ones who do this?  Do adoptive parents of children born overseas or in closed adoptions talk about "our birthmom"? Or is this something we've created in our little open adoption corner, a place where these family relationships overlap? Where we're maybe more likely to be talking about our children's first parents with others, since they are an active, visible part of our lives?


An online friend introduced me to machatunim. Literally the Yiddish term for your married child's parents-in-law (so the relationship between my parents and Todd's parents--like consuegro in Spanish), it can also stand for the broader concept of "the family of my family."

In my gut I think when we adoptive parents say "our birth mom," we are fumbling for a way to describe machatunim. Most of the people I hear say it deeply respect and care for their children's first parents. Our words fall short of what our spirits want to convey: that this person, this family of my child, is family also to me. We are connected in a real and significant way.

The intent of our words is important, but the effect is more so. If only there were a machatunim equivalent in adoption. A single word  to describe who my children's first families are to me, one that doesn't carry the baggage of "our".
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