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.
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.
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.
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?