This is sort of a belated response to the Open Adoption Bloggers Roundtable #49
As you might imagine, Father’s Day is not a super big deal in our house. We talk from time about splitting up Mothers’ Day and celebrating one of us on Mother(s) Day and one on Father’s Day, but neither of us identifies as a father, and it doesn’t feel right to us, although it would be nice to have a day on which you were unequivocally pampered… P’ito usually does something nice for my dad, who is the most awesome grandpa on the face of the earth, and that’s it. As an aside, I am so grateful for my dad, who shows P’ito and Posy that masculinity and gentleness can go hand in hand, who at first questioned whether he would feel a connection with a grandchild who wasn’t genetically related to him and then fell head over heels in love with my kids the moment he met them.
But I wonder a lot about my kids’ fathers.
We met Posy’s father at the trial. He struck me as essentially a good, if somewhat hapless guy. I think he fought for Posy because he was very invested in the idea of himself as a father, even though he wasn’t doing a very good job of being a father for Posy or for his other kids. When he first agreed to let us adopt Posy, he was very enthusiastic about having an open adoption and he wanted us to bring Posy to visit right away, which wasn’t possible. Now it’s been over six months since we’ve heard from him. We’ve emailed him a couple of times and heard nothing. A little while back we heard through Posy’s birthmother that he fathered another child since then, which might explain his silence – the man has a lot on his plate. Pili texted him recently and I guess his number has changed. I stalk him on Facebook and download his profile picture whenever he changes it, so that I’ll have something to show Posy when she asks about him. That’s all I can see of his FB b/c he has his privacy settings fairly tight. I debate friending him, but I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that, or whether K. would be okay with that.
We have been dealing with a lot of explosive rage from P’ito lately. He goes from annoyed to infuriated in the blink of an eye. It’s been a problem for a long time, but we used to be able to dismiss it as a stage or something he would grow out of, and now it’s becoming clear that he’s not growing out of it. And because his father is a total blank slate to us, I wonder if this is something that comes from him? In my darkest fears, I worry that he was conceived violently and that there is some genetic component to that violence that has been passed down to him. Of course, I could also credit his father with his intelligence and his incredible physical talents – but somehow he becomes the repository for all my worries about my boy.
And today, I’m caught up in memories of the amazing day, a year ago, that we finally became a family of four.
We arrived at the hospital moments after Posy was born, and got to hold her right away. She was tiny – just shy of 5 pounds – with a thick head of black hair (that hasn’t changed). I couldn’t believe how perfect she was.
We’re so grateful that we were able to adopt Posy (and P’ito). 25 years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible. Even though there are so many things that still need to change to make life equitable for our families, and so many places where our families lack basic protections, today I am grateful for the strides that we have made and for Posy’s birthfamily, who understood that love, not gender, makes a family.
And a first blissful taste of buttercream frosting makes a first birthday – shared through the wonders of Skype with her birth-grandma.
I have so many little thoughts that I think would make good blog fodder, and then before I can sit down at the computer, they disappear. End result, it’s been two months since my last blog. So instead of blogging about something weighty, like P’ito’s recent ADHD diagnosis, I’m doing the Open Adoption Bloggers’ Blog Hop.
The Blog Hop question is:
What was the last book you read?
I’m currently reading Gone Girl for my book club, and I’m almost done with it and have to say I don’t get the hype about it. Both of the main characters are thoroughly unlikeable. The plot has more holes than a pair of fishnet stockings. I’m trying to finish it, just because I’m waiting to see what other people see about it, but so far it’s one of those things where I feel strangely disconnected from the rest of the world.
Tags: adoption openadoption birthfathers "open adoption", open adoption, Posy
I hesitate to tell this story and put it out there, and yet I feel sort of obligated to do so. Obligated to whom, I’m not sure – the handful of people who read this blog? That’s awfully self-important of me, isn’t it. But I feel like I need to tell this story. And so I’ve struggled to find the right words, vague enough to protect Posy and K. and B. and yet honest enough to be truthful to my own experience of those awful months when we weren’t sure Posy would be our child after all.
A day or two after we left the hospital with Posy, while we were still waiting for ICPC clearance, someone claiming to be Posy’s father called the hospital. After a lot of confusion and back and forth, K. admitted that B. was someone she had had a relationship with, and that it was possible he was the father. A month or so, and one paternity test later, we learned that B. was indeed the father – and that our “this is as good as it gets” adoption scenario was turning into a nightmare of a contested adoption.
Later, we learned they had in fact talked about the baby, and what to do about her – and while he was always adamant that he didn’t want K. to place her for adoption, he also didn’t step forward to be a father in any significant way or provide K. with any hope that he would step forward. K. knew how he was with his other children and was determined not to be “another one of his baby mama’s” – waiting on child support that never came, waiting with her child for visits that never happened, and so on. And so she decided to move forward without his involvement… never imagining that he would actively pursue fatherhood.
Which he did. To the point where we found ourselves in a courtroom, months after Posy’s birth, trying to prove that he had not supported K. during the pregnancy and had abandoned Posy after the birth. The adoption activist in me reads this and says, yeah how could he *not* have abandoned Posy, when you had her in a different state, many miles away from him? Suffice it to say that he had lots of opportunities to show his interest in her, and aside from the legal proceedings, he didn’t.
At the end of that grueling day, we connected with B. in a way that we had not before. He heard in our testimony how much we loved Posy and what a part of our family she was. C. button-holed him and gave him what I can only describe, good Jew that I am, as a come to Jesus talk about the benefits of open adoption. He gave us his phone number and asked us to call him. We called. He didn’t call back.
We alternated between hope – could he voluntarily terminate his parental rights? – and gut wrenching anxiety – what will the judge decide? Finally, shortly before the judge was going to make his decision, B. called us and told us that he was willing to agree to an open adoption – that he felt like that was the best thing he could do for Posy.
This accounting seems so emotionally distant, now that Posy is legally ensconced in our family. Looking back it is hard to capture in words the precise pitch of those fear-filled months and the peculiar difficulty of trying to live only in the present moment, not allowing ourselves to imagine a future with Posy, but unable to imagine a future without her (I can’t imagine how those of you who do foster-adopt bear it) – trying to protect P’ito from the worry, but not let him be blind-sided either… it was quite honestly the most difficult thing I have ever lived through to date.
The prompt for this Open Adoption Roundtable was very simple and open-ended:
Write about open adoption and time.
I’m constantly aware of the time that’s passing and wondering how it’s passing differently for us and for Posy’s and P’ito’s birthfamilies. I am more aware of it with Posy just because of the strangeness of time when you have a baby – so much routine: bottle, feed, diaper, nap, diaper, bottle, feed – and yet so much newness happening all the time.
My day is made up of moments like these: Posy fighting nap for 45 minutes until I decide I’m just going to take her to the grocery store with me – only to come back upstairs from putting my shoes on and find her fast asleep, clutching her binky. So mundane, and yet so precious.
When I think about all this ordinary time with Posy that her birthfamily doesn’t get to experience, it fills me with gratitude once again for the difficult choice that K. made and that C. lives with – to give us the gift of these moments. And so I’m off to text them: a first tooth is poking through…
Tags: adoption openadoption birthfathers "open adoption", Book club, k Club, Megan's Birthday Tree, open adoption
I’m taking part in the first Open Adoption Roundtable Book Club. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of wine, and bring on the cheese and crackers. I’m partial to Truffle Tremor and a bottle of pinot noir…
The book we read for this book club was Megan’s Birthday Tree – a kid’s book about open adoption. Megan’s birthmother, Kendra, has a tree that she planted after Megan was born. Every year on Megan’s birthday, she decorates the tree and sends her pictures of it. When Kendra gets married and tells Megan that she is moving, Megan is very worried that without the birthday tree, Kendra will forget about her. Megan tries, with the support of her adoptive parents, to locate a new birthday tree for Kendra to bring to her new home, but is ultimately relieved [spoiler alert] when Kendra shows up with the birthday tree in the back of her pick-up truck.
Overall, I thought the book was sweet and beautifully illustrated, and it was nice to read a kid’s book about open adoption that wasn’t pedantic, but in the end, I felt like everything got wrapped up just a little too neatly to make the story realistic. P’ito was much less critical than I – he liked the story and asked to have it read to him again, and said that he liked reading a story about a kid who was adopted like he was.
People who were less slackerish than I submitted some excellent discussion questions for the book club:
Sometimes when a person reads a picture book about adoption and something rattles something somewhere inside, but they ignore the warning because the book is so cute and mostly so good. Did you have any of those moments in this book?
I definitely had some of those “rattley-inside” feelings reading this book. The stability of Kendra’s life (a house where she could plant a tree?) contrasted so vividly for me with the chaos and instability of K’s life right now, and the extreme poverty of P’ito’s birthfamily. I found myself having a hard time believing in her as a birthmom. I can imagine reading this book with Posy down the road and having her ask, why isn’t my birthmom like that?
Do you think this book represents a realistic view of what open adoption might look like? How does the book and/or your own personal experience with open adoption correlate with what Ms. Page writes as a forward?
Errr… forward? What forward? (blushes) I did think that the vision of open adoption in this book was somewhat rosy and uncomplicated. In our case, we are dealing with the fact that K. has other kids, and placed Posy because she didn’t feel she could do right by them and Posy as a single mom. Although I don’t doubt at all that she cares about Posy, I don’t think, from what I’ve seen so far, that she has the energy to put into the relationship that Kendra demonstrates in the book. The key link in our birthfamily relationship is with C., K’s mom and Posy’s (birth)grandmother. And that aspect of open adoption – that it includes – or can include – extended families and (gasp) birthfathers as well, is not depicted in the book.
Much of the strength of this story lies in the importance of a recurring tradition that links together a birth mother and her adopted child, Megan. What role does tradition play in your child’s relationship with his/her birth mom? If your child’s birth mom isn’t open to frequent contact, does tradition play any role in trying to maintain that relationship?
We have lots of connections with Posy’s (birth)grandma that I think will settle into traditions – presents, hopefully an annual get together, phone calls, etc. etc. and I’d like to establish some traditions with K. to help cement the connection for Posy. Unfortunately, we live far away from each other, so visits are challenging, but I’m hoping that she will write Posy a letter each year on her birthday, just to let her know that she does think about her and so that Posy can also know more about her other siblings. Establishing any kind of connection with B., Posy’s birthfather, has been more problematic so far…
We have had a tradition of visiting P’ito’s birthfamily in Guatemala every other summer, but I’m not sure we’re going to be able to swing that financially this year, which makes me sad…
Do you do anything to celebrate your adoption (whether it’s the date you placed your child or the date you were adopted or you adopted your child)? In what ways does this book inspire you to do so?
We have always celebrated P’ito’s “family day” with going out to ice cream. Right now it just seems like an excuse to go out for ice cream – we don’t spend much time focused on adoption talk on that day, although he does like to hear the story of how I got sick when we were coming home from Guatemala…
In the end, I’m not sure that I will share this book with Posy, just because I can see it making her feel bad about her own adoption… but we’ve got time to see about that!
There’s a new line through the final item on our adoption #2 list over to the right – Posy, is officially, legally ours.
After all the stress and anxiety of this adoption – the worries about whether we would get to keep Posy – it was a spectacularly anti-climatic event – we signed a couple of papers, the Judge asked the law guardian if she approved of the adoption plan (she did) and we promised to be Posy’s parents forever.
Then P’ito banged the gavel, and we took a bunch of pictures.
Tags: "real mommy", adoption openadoption birthfathers "open adoption"
Today, for the first time, P’ito said to us “You’re not my real mommies. You didn’t grow me.” And told us he was going to run away to Guatemala. Threw some food into a pillowcase, put his boots and his jackets on over his too-small footie pajamas, and walked outside into the snowy dark for about a minute.
Intellectually, I was prepared for it. Knew it was inevitable at some point. Had all sorts of supportive, affirming replies ready. No, we didn’t grow you, but we love you, and love makes a family, blah blah blah.
Emotionally? Sucker punch. Am still reeling, wondering if I said the right thing even as the cataract haze of high emotion makes my memory of exactly what I said grow too foggy to reproduce here.
I know it’s all normal: I just wasn’t expecting it to sting so much.
Yes, I’m on a posting rampage tonight. Still haven’t finished part 2 of Posy’s story though… don’t know when that’s going to happen!
Heather over at Open Adoption Bloggers organized a Blog Hop with the question:
What is your favorite room/spot/piece of art in your home and why?
I knew immediately what spot I would choose, but I kept waiting to take a decent picture of it. I’ve accepted that that’s never going to happen, so before this post is even more overdue, here goes…
My favorite spot in our house is our red chair. We bought it thinking it would go in P’ito’s room, but it wound up in the living room. It’s my favorite spot to give Posy a bottle, read P’ito a story, or just curl up with a book myself. It rocks and sways and has an ottoman that rocks and sways along with it. It’s super cosy. Here is Posy in her Halloween costume on the red chair.
Had a nice talk the other night with Posy’s (birth) grandmother. She apologized for not sending Xmas presents for Posy and P’ito and asked what they wanted/needed as she was going to send presents once she got her tax refund. We assured her that there wasn’t anything that they needed, but she was very determined and I wound up telling her a few things that they could use (Posy) or would like (Pito). She also wanted to know what we needed – same conversation, and she wound up insisting that she would send us a gift card for the Mart of Wal. I feel very conflicted about this – on the one hand, I know that C. needs the $ more than we do, and I don’t want her to spend $ on us. On the other hand, I feel like there is something very significant in her desire to give us presents – a balance of power issue, a sense of personal dignity – and I don’t want to infringe on that or step on her toes.
We didn’t send her any Xmas presents either, which I immediately felt guilty and horrible about, but I don’t celebrate Christmas, and don’t automatically think about sending presents, although I should have. Pili did send K. some $ to help her buy presents for herself/her kids, but I didn’t think about sending C. a present.
Now though, I am thinking about sending her a big present. I mentioned that we wanted to Skype with her so she could see Posy and P’ito, and she said she would need to coordinate with her son b/c his laptop is the only computer in the house now – her laptop broke. So I am thinking about buying a cheap(ish) laptop or tablet for her – stressing that it’s a gift for us too, b/c we want to be able to Skype with her. But I am worried that it will seem like too much, or that she will feel pressured to reciprocate, and if I do it, I don’t know *when* to do it. Before she sends us presents? Which might make her feel pressured to actually send the presents, even if her tax refund isn’t as big as she’s anticipating. After? Neither?