Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Open Adoption Roundtable #48


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.
This roundtable prompt was:

Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?
I have two adoptions (two and a half, really) to consider when answering questions like this, and I think I would like to address them all.

My birth-family

I have a great, very open relationship with my birth father and his family. My adoption opened when I was 18, and met both of my birth parents. Ever since then, my birth father and his family have included me in all their major life events. We talk frequently, though not as frequently as any of us might like, but that's due to busy lives and distance more than anything else.

My birth mother, on the other hand, has completely closed off. After meeting that one time, she has stopped all communication, and I haven't had any relation with her ever since. I know that she does, very occasionally, talk with my birth father, but that's about it.

In both of these cases, I believe it came down to their attitude regarding my adoption--something that was formed before I was even born. My birth mother "moved on" almost immediately after my birth--got married, started having children, and apparently shut her adoption experience into a dark, tight box that never got opened. Compare this to my birth father, who raised his daughters knowing about me, celebrated my birthday each year, carried a photo of me as a baby in his wallet along with photos of his daughters, and you'll see what I mean. My birth father always wanted to have a relationship with me, and that shows in the relationship that we have today.

My son

This is a little more complex. Before my son was born, his parents and I emailed frequently (almost daily, throughout my pregnancy). We agreed on an open adoption, but we did not specify what all that was going to entail, except that we would figure it out as we went. Looking back, I think a little more specificity would have helped, but I also have to acknowledge that I had no idea at the time what I would need or want six months, a year, five years down the road.

After placing my son, communication immediately dropped off. While I could logically understand--with a new baby in the house, sending daily lengthy emails would be impractical, if not impossible--emotionally, it was very difficult to deal with. And to be perfectly candid, there have been many times in the last seven years when I have craved more from them than I have received.

That said, we do have an open adoption. I can send them an email any time, and (hopefully) receive a response. And if my son or his parents ever needed or wanted to contact me, I would not hesitate to respond.

While it's not perfect, and not exactly what I envisioned when I placed him for adoption, it works. My thoughts on why it grew to be this way? I think part of it is personality, both mine and my son's mother. Part of it is the more general difficulty of maintaining long-distance relationships. There are other factors as well. But it works. While I always want to be there for my son if he has need of me, for the most part, I am content to see pictures of him on Facebook and know that he is well.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Blog Hop: What have I been reading?

The Open Adoption Bloggers thought it might be fun to also get to know one another in a more lighthearted way through a good old-fashioned blog hop! Each blogger answers a question, and we post our links. We then comment on at least three other people’s blogs. Fun! This hop's question is:

 What was the last book you read?
It's not uncommon for me to be reading several books at once, and such is the case at the moment. These normally cover a variety of topics and genres, but as you'll see from the forthcoming list, I've got something on my mind.

I just finished reading "Bitterblue" by Kristin Cashore. This is the sequel to a fantasy novel called "Graceling" which I read about a year ago. I really enjoyed "Graceling" except for one major thing--the refusal of the main character to commit to marriage because she felt like it would take away all her freedom and identity and make her beholden to her husband--despite the fact that the love interest never once displayed any traits to make that fear even remotely rational, and was clearly a fear of the author's made manifest. That kind of writing makes me crazy, so I was hesitant to pick up the sequel.

Finally doing so, I found Bitterblue an engaging read--but not for the light of heart. Bitterblue, made queen at the age of 10 because of the assassination of her psychopathic father, is dealing with issues far beyond what I thought I would be dealing with when I picked up the book. If you've read Graceling, you can imagine what kind of state Bitterblue's nation has been left in after 35 years of Leck's reign, and Cashore is not hesitant in dealing with the realities of that situation.

I picked up The Gift of Giving Life at the recommendation of my sister-in-law, and it's been...interesting. The book is all about pregnancy and childbirth, and I have enjoyed many of the thoughts and stories I've read so far. But a few of them have been very off-putting for me as well. The book is presented as a spiritual guide, but it is also very pro-natural/unassisted childbirth. Don't get me wrong, I believe in natural childbirth, but to a degree--for instance, my son was born at a hospital, but with a certified nurse midwife, utilizing no drugs. As I've been discussing these things with my husband, we will probably choose a similar route with our children. With regards to this book, I am all for women having the birth experience that they desire. But I'm a little leery of "all-natural = the only way to go" in order to have a spiritual birth experience. I'm appreciative of the sections that address how to have a spiritual birth experience regardless of circumstances.

I am still in the midst of Choosing Motherhood, which is a book about women with lucrative careers and education who each, through some remarkable circumstances, chose to become full-time mothers.

I strongly identify with the stories told in this book. Not because I'm hesitant to become a mother--something I've craved my entire adult life. But because of the choice involved. I don't like the attitude that motherhood is something to grit your teeth and get through, a necessary trial. I also don't like the attitude that full-time motherhood should be the choice for women of my faith and that women who choose, for whatever reason, to work while raising their children, are lesser mothers (a prevalent attitude in the area where I live). I'm in love with the idea of choice--of women who loved what they did before, but find even more, different, satisfaction in motherhood. That is what I'm looking for.

What have you been reading?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Can I tell you a secret story?

I took a pregnancy test today.

It was negative.

But it still made me really happy.

Here's the story: I've been joking with my husband for a couple of days, joking that maybe I was pregnant. We both knew this was virtually impossible, considering that A) I'm on the pill, as regular as can be, and B) I had my period like a week and a half ago. But as the joke continued, I remembered that we had a couple of pregnancy test kits lying around--courtesy of our friends/family decorating our car on our wedding night--and I jokingly suggested that I wanted to take a pregnancy test.

James humored me, as he often does, so I took the pregnancy test, fully anticipating that it was going to come out negative, which it did. And it made me happy--but not for the reasons you probably think.

I've only taken one other pregnancy test in my life. That day, I was terrified. At the store while purchasing the kit, I felt nervous. I shook while administering the test. Waiting for the results, I curled up and prayed that it would come out negative. And when I saw that positive line, I was first disbelieving, then completely, unbelievably distraught. My life turned upside-down that day, never to be the same.

I have nothing but negative feelings associated with that experience. Though I have many positive associations with my son and adoption, finding out that I was pregnant was one of the worst moments of my life.

As I have begun to prepare to start our family with my husband, a lot of buried emotions and memories have been stirring within me. The idea of getting pregnant is exciting--something I have been looking forward to for a long time, but especially since getting married. Yet I sometimes have to fight off these other feelings, the negative ones.

Today, I took a pregnancy test, with no emotion except for excitement. The result was negligible--I knew it was going to be negative, but even if it HAD been positive, I could have faced it with (surprise, but also) excitement. I know it's not a big thing, but it was important to me. It was a stepping stone. This was the first step in overcoming the old, negative emotions that I still associate with pregnancy, and reveling in the joy and excitement that are in store for me when James and I actually start trying.

I will probably be posting more about this kind of stuff, in the months to come. I don't know if other birthmothers share these types of experiences or not. But it's definitely part of my journey as a birthmother.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Struggles of a birthmother around Mother's Day

I recently read an article about Mother's Day that resonated with me.

Mother's Day and I have a hit-and-miss relationship. Some years, I haven't really thought about adoption at all. Other years, Mother's Day has been terribly difficult. Unfortunately, this year seems to be one of the latter.

These are some of the things I struggle with, come Mother's Day:

-All the acknowledgment of mothers make me (selfishly) crave that recognition. But while I am not secretive about my placement, it's not something I speak of often. I work with children, and I don't find it appropriate to discuss in my workplace. I haven't told my in-laws. And in general, it's just not something I speak of on a regular basis. That said, when Mother's Day rolls around, I feel sadly excluded. I want to talk about motherhood. I want to celebrate the fruit of my womb. I want to be recognized for the sacrifice I made. But I remain silent.

-Mother's Day makes me miss Ian. Or rather, the idea of Ian. The idea of that child who I chose not to raise. I do not regret that choice. But my arms ache sometimes for the child I lost.

-It also gives rise to the intense, desperate craving that I have to truly be a mother--to bear and raise children of my own. I am hopeful that this desire will not be long in coming to me. But every year around Mother's Day, even now that I am happily married, I feel a terrible fear rise within me--the fear that I will not be able to bear any more children. That something will go wrong, that I am broken, that I will never experience the glorious gift of pregnancy and childbirth for my own sake, rather than on behalf of another family.

I know that it will be okay. I have felt the reassurance of friends, loved ones, and my Father in Heaven again and again. But every once and awhile, I feel like there's no shame in admitting (to the blogosphere, at least) that I am sad, and grieving, and afraid. I know that I will be okay--but for now, I am simply allowing myself to feel.