No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth…really. It only seems that way. And no, the prospect of Boundary Crossers didn’t run me off. I’ve just been drowning…work, life, you name it. It’s been sapping my reserves.
But first things first. I want to thank all of you for your supportive and helpful comments in response to my last post. It really helps me gain perspective and balance in the area of my sensitivity. After two years of being a parent through adoption, I need to move through the fears that these Boundary Crossers may be right, and just do the best damn job parenting this amazing kidlet that is humanly possible. I cannot protect her from every harm or every trauma, but I can love and support her so that she has a strong foundation from which to weather her life’s storms. That is all any parent can hope for.
This brings me to today’s topic for the Open Adoption Roundtable #3: Share your wish list for your open adoption(s).
Overall, we have a pretty amazing open adoption. We bonded with Josie (not her real name), Zizi’s firstmother, right from our first meeting. She’s sharp, direct, exceedingly open, and has a soul forged through pain. In other words, she is my psychic twin born 20 years after me. I adore this young woman and work to mentor her while keeping myself from crossing the line to rescuing her from the crises and issues she has faced since we’ve known her.
Most of the wishlist items I had in mind before our match are firmly in place in our open adoption.
- Commitment to Openness for Child’s and Firstmother’s Benefits
- Respect of Roles
- Closeness but not Enmeshment
- Some Level of Comfort with Decision
- The Outstanding Item: Firstfather
Josie, AdoringHusband and I are all firmly committed to this open adoption in order to benefit Zara. It isn’t about our comfort/discomfort. It is about her access to her family of origin. And it is about normalizing the adoptive experience for her as much as possible so that she can see it as special rather than being unwanted. (Not that we can control what she will ultimately feel about her adoption; let me make that clear.)
There was no moment in this child’s life that she was unwanted or unloved. Josie made the adoption plan because she felt unable to parent her in the way she wanted her child to be parented. It was not about not loving or not wanting her. And Josie was clear about wanting an open adoption so that she would remain a part of Zizi’s life. There were very specific criteria that she wanted in the adoptive parents she chose.
Now from the adoptive parent perspective, there is nothing binding about open adoption. Adoptive parents often close open adoptions without much thought (or after a little thought). But that isn’t me. My word is a sacred contract. I have so much respect and gratitude for Josie that I could never decide to cut off her connection to the daughter she carried and bore. It will not happen. We are even stipulating in our wills that if (God forbid) something happens to both of us, Zara’s guardians must continue the open adoption relationship as we have established. Even if (though it defies the imagination) Josie’s brain snaps and she becomes a sociopathic serial killer prone to rants about eating eyeballs and such. I would still send her letter and pictures about Zara while she is incarcerated just as I would do if it were AdoringHusband who had snapped. (Yes, I do read too many serial killer books.) My commitment is absolute.
We have in our open adoption a respect for our roles. I was worried in preparing for adoption that there would be some jockeying for position over who would be “Mommy.” But there is none of that. Granted, Zara is still so young that she still doesn’t get the Mommy/Firstmother difference. She does know that Josie is part of our family.
A few weeks ago after her birthday while driving home from work/daycare, I first broached the topic with her.
“Where’s Josie?” she asked, as she had been asking about anyone who visited with us. “She’s home with her family? she questioned.
“Josie is at home, Zizi, but she is part of our family: you, me, Daddy and Josie are all family. You grew in Josie’s tummy before you came out and came home with us, Sweetie.” I let this hang a little to see how her 2-year-old brain would take it in. Then I added, “Babies grow in their mommies’ tummies before they come out into the world. So you grew in Josie’s tummy.”
I watched her face in the rear view mirror. She was thinking intently for a second, then she put her hands on her belly and said, “Ouchy!” and giggled like a maniac. So went my first foray into discussing adoption with the munchkin. Much more to come.
We also have the benefit of being close to each other physically (90 miles away), but not so close either physically or emotionally that we end up enmeshed. It was a concern of mine that open adoption not be co-parenting. A see each other several times a week type of relationship would be too much for me. Hell, I don’t see my family of origin that much! I get the sense that Josie feels the same way too since we’ve fallen into similar visit/phone call patterns (actually I do more reminding about visits simply because there is often a lot going on in her life at any given time.)
Choosing to make an adoption plan, I would imagine, must be one of the most difficult decisions that a person can make. It is one of those back against the wall, push come to shove choices where all the options are difficult and there is no get out of jail free card. But as I have learned in my own life, a choice between a rock and a hard place is still a choice. And I respect the difficult choices that are made in such scenarios.
When I met Josie, I worked hard to convince her that her decision should be about what she thinks is best and not about us or the agency or anything else. I had done so much reading about coercion and regret in firstmothers that I didn’t want her to make a decision for the “wrong” reasons. I have to say that she seemed, in those days, (and still to a degree now) like one of my adolescent patients, and I wanted to help her process her choice/plan. Yet after the 50th time of my saying something to the effect of, “You know, if you want to parent, there are resources available. Don’t worry about changing your mind,” finally my younger twin gave me a bit of talking to. It seems that by acting as if she didn’t know her own mind and questioning (undermining) her decision, I was treating her as if she were a child, not an adult who had reached a well thought out decision. And she didn’t like that one little bit, as I realize I would bristle in the same way if someone questioned my well-considered decision. That was a major a-ha for me. (Yep, I was boundary crossing, myself)
With that said, I have listened to what she has said…and Josie is nothing if not brutally honest. She is, at two years in from her placement decision, happy with her decision. I will take that to be her truth, and that is the best I could hope for.
So this leads us to the one outstanding item on my Open Adoption Wishlist: more involvement and connection with Zara’s firstfather. Jeremy (not his real name) was not thrilled with the idea of the placement, but went along with Josie’s plan. He wrote on the form he completed that he agreed it would be best for the baby. Yet I think that he remains conflicted about that decision.
Initially there was some back and forth between he and Josie where he harassed her for our direct phone number so that he could call us. She told him that he had to go through the agency just like she did at first. Yet he never did.
In our letters that accompanied the pictures we sent over the past two years, we would ask him many times for contact. The only time we ever heard anything was a letter we received just after her first birthday. I almost passed out I was so stunned. It was such a warm and beautiful letter to little Zizi that I put it immediately into her treasure box to share with her later. I also wrote and thanked him for writing and again reached out saying that we want him to be connected to Zara forever, just as Josie is. Yet we’ve not heard from him again. Later I found that Josie had pushed him to write the letter as a birthday present to Zizi. That notwithstanding, it gave such a lovely glimpse into the paternal side of her firstfamily.
So my wishlist for our open adoption has mostly been achieved. I just hope that one day Jeremy will re-connect and fill that missing piece. If he does not, I pray that my Z will have the strength and foundation of love to accept this loss.
Lastly, while traipsing through the bookstore the other day, I came upon this book Someday
while looking at children’s books. I have to tell you that this is much more than a children’s book. This is a treasure given from parent to child. I found myself pulling out tissues to dab my eyes in the middle of the store. I bought it right there on the spot (though I could have gotten it cheaper from Amazon) and am saving it for when Z stops eating her books to give it to her. I want her to keep it with her for life, so that she can know that she is loved, always, completely.
Oh no. Tears again…