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.
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…
Pili, P’ito, and… Peewee? Petunia? Posy?
I want to tell her story as honestly as I can, but at the same time, this is not just my story to tell. So I will tell as much as I can while being respectful of K (her birthmom) and B (her birthfather). I also hesitate, because what happened in our story represents many people’s fears about domestic adoption. I will say that I think things turned out for the best in the end – for us, for Posy – and I think, for her first family as well. But it was a long – and harrowing road to get to that point.
In April of this year, after 2.5 years of waiting for a match, and a failed match that almost broke our resolve to adopt again, I got an email from a friend, asking if she could pass our information along to a woman who was considering adoption. I said of course, and prepared myself to be disappointed again.
In early May, I was at my biggest event of the year at work and expecting a call from a vendor who was driving in from out of state. I saw that I had a missed a call from a number I didn’t recognize and listened to my voicemail, assuming it as the lost vendor. Instead, it was K’s mom – C – saying that she and K had looked at our website and wanted to talk to us. I almost jumped out of my skin, but had to wait 4 hours until the event was over and cleaned up to call her back.
C told us that she and K had looked at the website and liked what they saw. K felt like the random string of connections that had brought us together was providence; she didn’t want to look at other families. C told us more about K and what had brought her to adoption. I sat in the back of my car, holding onto my phone, talking to C, and feeling a simultaneous waves of hope and fear. In our 2.5 years of waiting, it had sometimes felt like the only scenarios we got called about were ones with serious mental health issues or drug and alcohol involvement – scenarios that we had to agonize over and scrutinize our comfort zones – surely something as perfect as this could not be happening to us? As I joined my coworkers where they were waiting at a nearby bar, decompressing from the long weeks of preparation for this event, I whispered to a friend that I thought I might be going to become a mom again. To a baby girl, due in late June.
Over the next few weeks we talked and skyped with K. and her mom. K. flew from where she lived, to her mom’s state, where she wanted to give birth. The father, she assured us, was unknown – a one night stand – she didn’t even know his last name. Our adoption lawyer talked to K. and said to us “this is as good as it gets.”
In late May, I got a call from K. saying “I don’t want to worry you, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m having contractions…” Later that night, K. called again and said that she thought we should head out there. It was her wish that we be present for the birth. We got on a plane early the next morning and got there… only to learn that her labor had stalled out. Because the baby was early, they wouldn’t do anything to encourage it. We didn’t know what to do – expensive last minute plane tickets vs. hotel and time away from work, etc. etc. etc. but we decided to stay for a few days and see what happened, which gave us some time to hang out with K. and her family, which was really nice.
It turned out to be a good thing we stayed, because Posy was born a few days later. We were supposed to be there for the birth, but Posy came so fast we couldn’t make it to the hospital in time! We got there within minutes of the birth, and found ourselves holding a beautiful teeny tiny (just shy of five pounds, but healthy) bundle who was the most amazing little creature I have ever seen.