May 31, 2011

It Came in a Rush

"You know she had another one?"

It was tossed out my direction by Kelly's mother as she and Kelly's father prepared to leave our home last fall, more of a statement than a question. They were traveling through our town on a road trip and we had spent the afternoon together, the adults catching up and Eddie and Mari playing with Eddie's little sister, Robin, who Kelly's parents are currently raising.

"Another what?" I thought. Before my confusion even had time to take hold, Kelly's mom was talking again, information tumbling out of her. "There are three. Kelly had another baby. A boy. In July. He was adopted and he's in Northern California." She kept going without pause.

That was how we learned Eddie has a brother. Half of my brain was trying to memorize everything Kelly's mom was saying, to save every scrap of information she was dropping so I could piece it together later. The other half of my mind was racing, trying to overwrite the last year of our relationship with Kelly and what we thought was true with this new story. "We saw Kelly in August. He was born by then," I realized. "She didn't tell us. We spent hours with her and she didn't tell us. She didn't tell Eddie he has a brother. All those times we talked to her on the phone this year, she was pregnant the whole time. Is Eddie in listening range? I don't want him to hear it like this. 'Another one'? They're children. Your grandchildren. Two of whom are right here. Is that what my son is to you? Just 'another one'?"

Kelly's parents kept talking, interrupting each other to get the words out. Looking back, I realize this was probably one of the first chances they had to tell their big story to someone. We heard all about the circumstances of the pregnancy, the boyfriend, the agency's last-minute involvement, exactly what the adoptive parents were doing when they got the call. Yes, the adoptive parents know about Robin; no, they don't think they know about Eddie. They talked about it as if it were this exciting thing that had happened to them.

At some point they paused and Kelly's mom said, "Don't tell Kelly we told you. She doesn't want anyone to know. You won't tell her, will you?"  Without thinking, I answered, "No, of course not." I think I would have said almost anything at that point just to keep the information coming. It felt like I had this brief open window to grab up as many facts as I could--as much truth as I could--and I didn't know when it would open again, if ever.

I've regretted that promise countless times since that day. I can't believe I spoke without thinking, can't believe I agreed to more secrecy when it goes against every value I hold about how adoption should be practiced. It is awkward to talk to Kelly now. And I hate knowing that there is no easy way out; eventually Kelly will know we knew but didn't say anything to her and her parents will know we broke our promise to them, however regrettable it was. But that day is going to have to come, sooner than later.

One thing I knew right away: I wasn't going to keep any secrets from Eddie. This wasn't something that needed to be held until it was age-appropriate; information as basic as the existence of a sibling belonged to him right now. The next day I gently and plainly told Eddie about his new brother. He asked where he was and I explained. He said, "Oh." He asked me to pick him up. Arms wrapped around my neck, he told me he'd never let me go.

We held each other for a long time.

14 comments:

My name is Andy. said...

WOW! I can't imagine. I hope Eddie is okay. and you too.

My name is Andy. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
luna said...

so sad for everyone, really. what a tough situation.

maybe there will come a day when you can revisit that promise with kelly's parents, in the interest of eddie.

Lori Stark said...

Oh, sweet little Eddie. He's such a lovely sensitive soul. You're doing right by him, Heather.

Keiko said...

Grrr. Old version of Firefox ate my comment. Let's try this again...

Amazing post - my breath literally caught in my throat the moment it dawned on me just what Kelly's mother's words meant. Of course you just instantly reply that you won't say anything, without having a chance to process. It's a gut reaction, but I can see the strain it places now in the wake of that revelation. I'm glad you shared the news with your son - it's important he know he has a brother out there. Thinking of you.

Lori said...

There are so many emotions swirling around this - the way the news was delivered (and not delivered), the way "openness" varies so dramatically in it's interpretation, the language used, the impact on Eddie, the impact on his new sibling, the impact on YOU. Sigh. Life is sure messy. You're doing a great job managing it all Heather!

Lavender Luz said...

I can completely understand making that promise while thirsting for information.

Oh, Heather, what a tough position the gparents have put you in. Why all the secrecy? That's kind of a rhetorical question.

I'm sad for Eddie and all this means to him. You did a good job abiding with him.

TortoiseMum said...

For me this post really captures one of the many harsh realities of caring for and loving "other people's children". Just devastating. Just learning to walk with a vulnerable child through this scorched earth landscape must be incredibly difficult. Thank you for this post.

KatjaMichelle said...

Oh, Heather I hope that it does come out sooner rather than later and in best possible way with the least amount of fall out and hurt feelings possible.

I don't know Kelly at all, but just thinking about it and trying to give the benefit of the doubt I can see how I might have gotten into a similar situation. If I were get pregnant unexpectedly again I would be embarrassed and not want to tell people. The longer I went without telling the harder it would be to tell. Especially if the pregnancy resulted in another adoption. She may have ended up in a "I should have told them earlier...if i tell them now how will I explain why I didn't tell them earlier...I can't deal with this right now I'll tell them later..." lather rinse repeat...

So glad Eddie has you there to tell him the truth now rather than later. Sending much love in y'alls general direction

DrSpouse said...

Gosh.

I have not shared much about the situations we have been shown so far, on my blog, but in one case there was at least one previously-placed child. Because we were given outline medical information, this included previous pregnancies and it included health/living situation for previous children.

It seems really likely to me that the adopters of the new baby will have been given this information - as far as we can tell, adoption agencies seem to plagiarise each others' forms - so they all seem to have the same boxes on them.

But how hard is that, we also thought about "what if" for this situation which in the end, wasn't for us, but we have no idea if the other adoptive parents would have been told about us - the expectant parents said they would like openness but I don't know if they managed to achieve it with the other adoptive parents.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Since I first read this post, it has been tumbling around in my mind and I've written and erased this comment a few times. Because there are just no good words. No way to understand another person's decision. But I'm just thinking about all of you -- you and your kids and Kelly.

Lut C. said...

(Arrived here from Mel's).

My goodness. There's the saying, you can pick your friends but not your family. Boy does that apply in open adoption!

I hope you find a way out of the tangle you feel you're in.

Grace said...

I'm so lucky that our foster kiddo's baby sister came to live with us just four months after she was born and that maybe, just possibly, we might get to keep them both. I know that lightning won't strike yet again and any more sibs probably won't end up with us, but it would KILL me to know that they were out there alone. Even if they weren't alone and even cherished.

I don't know your story, but I can definitely understand how hard it is to know how to handle this situation. I wish you the best.

cynthia said...

Oh, Heather. wow. i'm sorry i'm coming to this so late. i'm not reading online anymore (obsessed with photography). wish we could sit and chat in real life. big hugs.

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