Friday, May 29, 2009

Ongoing relationships in adoption

When I was adopted, nearly 23 years ago now, open adoption didn't exist. My birthparents selected my adoptive parents from a series of profiles. They did not get to see pictures or names. Because I was born through C-section, they got to spend 48 hours with me in the hospital before I was taken by a social worker to my adoptive parents. The adoption agency performed a checkup six months later. My birth parents received the report of that checkup--again, no names were used--along with a handful of pictures. The pictures did not feature my parents, only me. That was the last my birth parents heard or saw of me for 19 years.

Obviously life has changed a lot. Adoptions are now open. Adoptees are allowed to meet and know their birth families, even grow up with their birth parents as active participants in their life.

However, even with open adoptions there is a tendancy among birth parents to drift, in the years following the placement of their child. Birth mothers heal, and they are often encouraged to put their experiences behind them and move on with their life.

I don't want to say this is wrong, because I very much believe that moving forward is a healthy approach to the adoption experience. However, I think that birth parents sometimes lose sight of the fact that their child will always have questions and needs that can only be fulfilled by the birth parents.

I've experienced this as an adoptee myself. I spent 19 years in the dark. Wondering, questioning, doubting. There were many times that I wished that I knew my birth parents, so I could ask them things. As a rebellious teenager, I thought there was surely some genetic explanation for things that happened in my life. All through my life, I wondered if I had siblings, I wondered if my parents had really loved me.

There is no substitute for a birth parent. They will never replace the parent, the adoptive parent. But blood calls to blood. I have grown close to my birth father and his family in the last few years, and those relationships are invaluable to me. And I hope to have an ongoing relationship with my son and his parents.

I think that it is crucial for birth parents to remember the needs of their child, just like the parents themselves. Just because we have moved forward with our lives does not mean that we have no further obligation to our child. Of course we give what we can, when we can, and when it's appropriate. But we still give of ourselves, always.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Being a birthmom

I read this great post over at Heather's blog. It got me thinking.

I think the key thing that Heather said was this:
If there is anything that is true about open adoption, it is that it's about our kids, not ourselves. We meet them where they're at in any given moment.
Reading about Heather and Puppy's experience on Mother's Day, it made me ponder how I can be a better birthmom. How I can be more supportive of my son, and of his parents. I hope I will always be there when they need me. And I hope that they always know I love them. =)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Conference update

The theme for the FSA National Conference this year is "Letting Love Lead". However, the birthparent planning committee (that's a mouthful, I need an acronym or something) decided early on that we wanted our own mini-theme for the birthparent part of conference. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have one.

United by Love

Our emphasis for conference this year is really about bringing birth families together--bringing families together. We are now in the midst of producing an awesome logo, and when that becomes available I will post it for general consumption. =)

I can't tell you how excited I am about conference. I feel so strongly that Families Supporting Adoption has a potential for growth that outpaces what any of us can imagine now. I am so grateful that they have finally let birth parents really become a part of this organization, and I hope that this growth is allowed to continue and expand into the wonderfulness for which it has so much potential.

To any lurking birth parents (or anybody who is involved in adoption!), this conference is for YOU. No matter where you are at in your story, there will be classes and connections for YOU. It's going to be amazing!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Am I Odd?

One of my biggest failings is the automatic assumption that my way of doing things is the best way of doing things. I have to work pretty hard not to let this fault get ahead of me, to stop and consider the views of others, to think about it from others' point of view.

The more I delve into the adoption world at large, the more I'm coming to realize that my views on adoption are NOT generally held, and that in many cases I am odd.

I read a great article on adoption today as provided by Mrs. R from The R House. The article has a positive view on adoption, but the comments are riddled with negativity and antagonism toward adoption in general. It made me rather sad. One poster in particular was adamant that the term "birthmother" is derogatory and that adoptive parents aren't really parents, just caretakers.

In response (because I didn't feel I could properly express myself in the forum of a comments section), I have some facts of my life to share with you.

1. First and foremost, I am adopted, and I LOVE MY PARENTS. That would be my adoptive parents, folks. They are my examples, my confidants, my friends, my mentors, my strength and my shelter. I will always love them dearly.

2. I also love my birthparents, but in an entirely different way. I respect them for the decision they made to place me for adoption. I love to see our similarities and our likenessess. And I love the opportunity I have to get to know them better, as well as their other children, my siblings.

3. I love my son, who I placed for adoption three years ago of my own will and choice. I was not coerced, I was not convinced, and I certainly wasn't forced. I wanted my son to grow up in a two-parent household, with a stable family who could provide him all the love they possessed. And he got it! But with open adoption, I get to stay in touch, to watch him grow, and I'm able to provide answers to questions as they arise. If I had to do it again, I would not do it any differently.

4. I am happy. My life is good. I went through counseling before and after placing my son for adoption, and I know I could go back if I needed to. But what's more--I've healed and I have fully accepted my decisions. I am at peace! And I continue to serve as an advocate for adoption because I believe that it is the best decision for many--if not most!--unwed parents, but more importantly, for their children.

Maybe I am odd. Maybe my views are not generally held. But in my pride and my failings, I believe that my views are the best--for everyone. I have personally witnessed the benefits and joy of open adoption, and I will continue to sing these praises until the cows come home. =)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Letting Go and Moving Forward

I have some thoughts. They are my thoughts alone, so please take them only for what they are worth. I mean no offense.

I was the recipient of a rant from a fellow birthmom about the phrase "letting go and moving forward". This fellow birthmom doesn't like those terms with regard to our situation. She was upset by the idea of 'moving on' from her adoption story, or 'sticking it in the closet', as she understood the phrase to mean. It's semantics, perhaps, but it got me thinking.

Similarly, I was reading some forum posts by birthmothers, on Facebook, on blogs and other adoption websites. And I was discouraged to see how many birthmothers fall prey to grief and shame, years after the placement of their children. It seems stronger in those who placed within closed adoptions, but it is still rampant.

My adoption experience doesn't bring me sorrow. Not anymore. I have healed. To be perfectly honest, it makes me uncomfortable to read and listen to birthmothers who seem to dwell in their grief. I was reading a discussion post about how birthmoms celebrate the birthday of their placed-children, and it was swarmed with stories about grief and pain. It made me uncomfortable! Because I celebrate my son's birthday, just as I would anyone else's. It brings me joy, not pain.

That's really what "letting go and moving forward" was about for me. It's not about forgetting our adoption and placement experiences. I agree with my fellow birthmom--that would be impossible and unhealthy. But I think it is important to move forward with our lives. I think it's crucially important! Yes, we have experienced a grave loss. Yes, we will grieve. But if we don't move forward with our lives, then we will forever be a victim of that grief and loss. By letting go of that--the overwhelming grief and pain and bitterness and sorrow--and moving forward, we can become advocates for children and for healthy adoption experiences. We can live our lives. We can cherish that child, we can cherish our family, and we can do so in an uplifting and healthy manner that benefits us and and our children.

I am a birthmom. But being a birthmom is only part of who I am. =)