November is both Diabetes Awareness Month and Adoption Awareness Month.
In other news, it’s sort of sad when you get excited because there are two more comments on your blog, and then realize that you left those comments in response to someone else.
I have to say I have been waiting for this moment for almost a year.
That sounds very dramatic, doesn’t it? I discovered the Open Adoption Bloggers about a year ago, right after last year’s interview project. And I kept reading these really interesting posts and thinking, I want to be a part of this – why am I always late for everything?
So I jumped right on when it was announced this year. I was very curious who I would get matched with – would it be someone I clicked with right away? Or someone with whom I had to reach a little further to find common ground? Once I got my assignment, I spent a ridiculous amount of time reading my partner’s archives and catching up on her story – we’ve both been blogging for a long time! Pili: What are you doing? Me: Um, just reading this blog. Pili: Really, still? Are you aware of the laundry downstairs?
And after my
compulsive thorough perusal of her archives, I really do feel like Dr. Spouse (a fellow pseudonymous blogger) and I would be good friends if we ever had the chance to meet in person. Which is unfortunately, rather unlikely, as she lives an ocean away. So without further ado… (and because I’m too tired to come up with a clever segue, having sat and sat and sat while P’ito studied his lego starwars minifigure encyclopedia to determine which five of the 200-some profiles of little plastic figurines he wanted me to read)… I asked Dr. Spouse:
1) In which you think I’m an idiot: I’ve read large chunks of your blog, and I still don’t understand the UK adoption system. Can you explain what the process looks like for a domestic adoption in the UK? Is there no such thing as a voluntary relinquishment? What would happen if you had a situation like ours, where we were connected with K. through a friend of a friend?
In the UK, parents can voluntarily relinquish, but it’s rare. It’s after 6 weeks I believe (so it’s like a few US states) but there is no private adoption in the sense that you mean. All adoptions are through an agency and I’ve never heard of a relinquishing parent being given any say in who parents his/her child, either. That was one of the reasons we ended up adopting from the US, because although Baby Spouse would have been adopted, we imagine, in the UK too, Nella would have had no choice in where he was placed even if she had relinquished him.
Relinquished children in the UK generally spend some months in foster care (though thankfully this is changing – at least the number of months is reducing!) before a placement is found, too. We knew a couple who had thought of adopting from the US, and were approved to do this, but a relinquished baby who shared their (unusual for the UK) ethnicity needed a family and she was placed with them, but not till she was 9 months old. This shocks me, to be honest.
2) This is nosy, but… You’ve written a bit about NOT being an “obvious” adoptive family – were you/are you open to a child of a different racial background from you? Why or why not?
We originally said that we would be open to a child who could be a child of one of us, but not a child who could not be a child of either of us. We live in a fairly small city, but it is a university city and a child who was not of European background would not be the only one in their class at school like this (though this does slightly depend on the school). For example, one of the children at nursery with Baby Spouse has pictures showing “My summer holiday in Nigeria and my Christmas holiday in Germany”. So “my Easter holiday in the US with my family” of whatever family would not be too strange, either. And we’ll pick his primary school based on diversity, I’m sure.
Broadly, it is more common to be “brown” in our city than it is to be “black”, and there are a lot of blended families with a variety of ethnicities in the same family. We decided we didn’t want people’s first thought on seeing us as a family to be “that child must be adopted”; as we say to people, his adoption is not a secret, but it’s not the first thing we tell people either. International adoption is pretty rare in the UK, which by itself means transracial adoption is less common than in some countries – and there’s still a bit of reluctance among social workers to place black children with white families – which I’m not sure is reflected in the families applying to adopt as much as the social workers think.
I am not sure we’d deliberately opt for a child of mixed ethnicity for a second adoption, though, but there’s a possibility it might turn out that way (and we might find ourselves down the line being surprised too – as, even if you think a child has one birth father, even after they are born, you can sometimes be wrong!)
3) You’ve referred to Mr. Spouse having diabetes. I’m curious to know how it’s impacted your life together – are you involved in his diabetes management, or do you pretty much trust him to manage it himself and figure he’ll let you know if he needs anything? What is diabetes care like in the UK? Does Mr. Spouse have a pump?
He has managed it himself without me for years – so he basically manages it now – except occasionally when I help him by handing him a snack, or reminding him I saw his insulin pen (he has a pen) on the mantelpiece before leaving the house! But he usually tells me it’s fine, that’s the spare! He is pretty well controlled and his doctor says, apart from being a little heavy (which the doctor says is fine – but we both lost weight through carting Baby Spouse around which is not bad at all!) – he’s pretty healthy for any man his age.
They monitor him very well (so they keep his cholesterol down to envious levels, for example), and the gadgets he gets (free on the NHS of course) are pretty neat. He just got a new, lightweight pen today and was showing me how nicely it fits in his work bag. When we lived in the US, he couldn’t have got the insulin and pens he uses on our HMO plan. We are huge fans of “socialised” medicine.
4) What’s your biggest anxiety about having – or not having – a second child?
About having a second child – I think the logistics – both of the adoption itself (applying to adopt, which is much more lengthy here, carting Baby Spouse around as well as another child, while doing all the paperwork, living out of a suitcase for several weeks etc.).
But also the logistics of childcare, timing the nursery pickup with my work, putting them both to bed at the same time. A small amount of anxiety about Baby Spouse taking on a sibling, though he is a very easy going child. But also anxiety about what the future may hold for him (will he manage at school? will his early adversity come back to haunt him?), and whether the same may apply to another child.
I think the anxiety of not having another child is partly loneliness. Baby Spouse’s loneliness as he gets older without a sibling, and possibly as he tries to navigate school without a peer relationship at home to guide him, and as he sees his sibling growing up (at least we hope he will) a long way away. And his loneliness as (let’s face it) an only adult child of older parents. But also my loneliness together with him if we lose Mr Spouse.
5) If you had the luxury of choosing the sex of a second child, what would it be? Why?
I guess a girl for the bizarre reason that I would like to dress her in the same clothes as Baby Spouse and see everyone’s reaction!
I only bought/kept clothes for him that I would put on a girl, and that don’t scream “stereotype”, which means almost no pastel blue, and no cars/trains/”I’m a cheeky monkey”/”I’m so noisy”/”I’m a little monster”/”Here comes Trouble”/robots/spacemen. And when I spotted something pink but not frilly, I bought it. But his clothes are also quite plain and simple, partly because that’s my taste, and partly because we got lots of hand me downs from a friend with a boy. And as a woman, I’m happy to wear plain blue trousers and a plain red shirt – so why not put that on a baby girl too?
Oddly while we’ve been talking about the possibility of a second child Mr Spouse has said several times “he” and only once realised what he was doing and said “he. Or she”.
6) You’ve traveled and lived in lots of different places. If you had to pick one place to revisit today, what would it be? Why?
I’d like to properly explore South Africa. I’ve only spent 24h there. And actually, if I can have a second, I’ve had two short stopovers in Singapore, so the same applies. For different reasons, they seem fascinating – South Africa is so varied and has so much rich culture – yet so much sadness – and while I was living elsewhere in Southern Africa in the 1990s it was emerging as a new nation. I heard about it every day on the news and yet have basically not visited.
Singapore just seems fun (good, clean fun!) – a safe taste of Asia that I’d love to take Mr Spouse and Baby Spouse to – though it is quite small, and quite a long way for a family holiday. Mr Spouse has been to East Africa with me and enjoyed it (he is good at Adventures) but I think he’d enjoy Asia a bit more if we went somewhere more set up for tourists and easier to navigate.
Bonus question: Did you wind up liking Gone Girl?
I did actually! It was quite mindless and I was jetlagged.
I’m working on a post about our visit with Posy’s birthfamily (short version: very good visit) but it will be password protected… so email me at email@example.com if you’d like the password, or leave a comment here.
In just a few days we will be headed off across the country to visit Posy’s birthfamily – the whole kit and kaboodle of them. My introvert self is anxious about all sorts of things – the lack of privacy (we are staying with them – C. said there was “no way you’re staying in a damn hotel!”) – the what will they think if/when P’ito throws a fit (although he will likely be so entirely indulged with them that fits, which generally come in response to limits being imposed, are less likely) and most of all, how is Posy going to respond to them.
She’s generally pretty quick to warm up to strangers – which, let’s face it, is what they are to her. A one year old doesn’t correlate blurry faces on an ipad screen skype session to real people. But I know that they are going to be eager for her to be affectionate with them, and my inability to control her makes me anxious. I want her to be at her cutest, most charming, most outgoing… and all I can do to make sure that happens is pack lots of cute clothes for her.
I’m also nervous about what us staying with them will be like for K., who is living in her mom’s basement at the moment. C. says that K. is okay with it, and I have no reason not to believe her, except that I can’t imagine the emotions that she will be feeling, and I don’t know that, in the maelstrom that’s been her life over the past year, she’s had much opportunity to process her own feelings about the adoption.
I am genuinely glad to be seeing them and so excited to share this awesome little person that Posy has become over the past year. But also, really effing nervous.
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…