Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dealing with the baggage I brought into my marriage

Back when I was single, I tried to imagine what part my adoption would play in my courtship/engagement and marriage. I had a few ideas of what to expect, having listened to other birthmothers and their husbands describe their experiences. Two months into my marriage, I've now had a few experiences of my own.

I told James about my birth-son and my adoption experience on our second date. That's pretty early for me. Once, I've told a guy on the first date. Every other time it's been three, four, five dates into the process before I've shared this deeply personal experience. But James and I had been friends for almost a year before we started dating, and I knew that I could trust him. Beyond that, things were moving pretty fast, and I felt like I needed to tell him before our courtship proceeded any further.

Telling James was, as it always is, incredibly nerve-wracking. I was afraid that our relationship would come to a screeching halt as soon as the words were out of my mouth. I was afraid that he would look at me differently. Being James, I wasn't really afraid that he would treat me any differently. But I was hoping and praying that he would be understanding.

He didn't say a whole lot about it that night. Two days later when I saw him again, he admitted that he had struggled, truly struggled, with what I had told him. So much so that he requested a priesthood blessing from his best friend. The truly amazing part was this--James didn't tell his friend anything, simply that he was struggling with something. And in the blessing, James was told that he would bear this trial for the sake of his future family. He describes the experience here.

That was it, for awhile. I rarely bring up the topic. Being a birthmom is not a present part of my life right now. It's on the back-back-back burner of my brain at the moment. But it has come up, a few times. Ian recently turned 7 and, as his birthday tends to do to me, I became a little reflective. Seven years old! I can hardly fathom it. Seven years feels like an eon ago. I was an entirely different person!

James once grew upset, as I was talking about Ian. I could tell that he wasn't happy, so I tried to figure out why. He erupted with emotion. We both got rather agitated as we tried to talk through it. (I cried, curse it all.) But for me, it all came down to one revelation:

Ian & adoption are separate from the act (sin) of his conception.

I do not equate them. Thinking about Ian brings me joy, pride, and occasional nostalgia for what might have been. I love him, I am happy for him, I like seeing pictures of him, I like hearing how he is doing, I like receiving pictures he has drawn, I like hearing about the crazy things he says.

Thinking about his conception makes me remember feelings of shame, loneliness, guilt, embarrassment, despair, uncertainty, and anger. Thinking about Ian's birthfather (which I try to avoid doing) makes me remember feeling sad, spiteful, and a terrible anger that rode with me for a very long time, until I was able to find forgiveness for him.

Thinking about Ian is sometimes a reflection of the past, but it is often a thing of the present. Thinking of his conception and his birthfather is always a thing of the past. I have repented. I have forgiven. I have moved on with my life. I do not like remembering that time. There is nothing to gain from it.

I realized that my husband was equating these two, very separate things. Whenever I talked about Ian, all my husband could think of was Ian's birthfather. And that realization allowed us to process our emotions--both of us.

I'm not saying everything is perfect. I know it's still something that James struggles with, which means I struggle with it too. But we understand each other a little better than we did before, and we're moving forward with the best of intentions. We love each other, and we are both committed to seeing our marriage succeed. That includes forgiving each other of past mistakes, and proceeding hand-in-hand through the future trials our life together has in store.