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.
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!
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.
Tags: adoption openadoption birthfathers "open adoption", halloween, UNICEF
Pictures of Pepito in his adorable monkey costume will no doubt come later.
It’s meant to be photocopied double-sided. Some charities that I recommend as substitutes for what you would have thrown in the UNICEF box this Halloween are:
Please feel free to pass this file along to family and friends!
Tags: adoption openadoption birthfathers "open adoption", guatemala, UNICEF
I got this link to Multicultural Toybox (which is a pretty awesome site in and of itself) from my one of my must-read bloggers, cloudscome. Unicef, the oh-so-enlightened guardian of children, is using black-face in an advertising campaign (!).
Unicef is opposed to inter-country adoption, and has been very virulently anti-adoption in Guatemala. What they say is that they “believe that children should remain within their extended families or communities, whenever possible.” I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the fact that they have essentially offered Guatemala money for orphanages, etc. if and only if they stop adoptions.
If UNICEF really cared about children, imho, they would address adoptions by working to change the root causes of the poverty, racism, misogyny and lack of access to health care and nutrition that force so many women to place their children for adoption in the first place – without requiring that adoptions be stopped prior to offering that aid.
I’m working on a little flyer, in the shape of a twenty-dollar bill, that I can put in kids’ UNICEF boxes this Halloween. It will explain that this is money I would have given to UNICEF, explain why I am not giving money this year, and ask that the recipient forward this “bill” along with any other donations they collect to UNICEF so they can see how much their short-sighted policy is costing them.
If you’d like me to send you the pdf once it’s done, drop me an email. In the meantime, watch this:
I’ve gotten a few comments on this post, urging me not to single-handedly destroy UNICEF and the important work that this great organization does. Interestingly, most of them come from people with IP addresses that belong to UNICEF. Hi UNICEF staffers! Thanks for the full disclosure, folks! To follow up on their comments…
Kendra (UNICEF USA ip address) says: “Please check the facts before jumping to such an ugly and unfounded conclusion about this organization (and before taking such destructive action), that has always stood first and foremost for the welfare of children.”
And Linda (UNICEF USA ip address) says: “Do you all really believe everything you read on the internet?? I would recommend that you read one step further, talk to someone in the organization and learn the facts, not the gossip.”
What makes you jump to the conclusion that I haven’t checked the facts, Kendra & Linda? The blackface ad isn’t a fact? Yes, I’d say using racist strategies to tug on heartstrings is standing first and foremost for the welfare of children. Why do you make the gratuitous and condescending assumption that my readers and I haven’t done our research (why yes, I’m sure we’ll get an unbiased perspective talking to someone in the organization).
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that (article 6) “every child has the inherent right to life” and that parties to the Convention “shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.”
Article 18 states that “For the purpose of guaranteeing and promoting the rights set forth in the present Convention, States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children… States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible.”
Article 24 states that: “States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services… [and] shall take appropriate measures: (a) To diminish infant and child mortality; (b) To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care; (c) To combat disease and malnutrition… (d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers; … (f) To develop preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education and services.”
If Guatemala observed any of these articles and provided these supports, Pepito’s mom might not have been forced to make the choice that she, as his parent, freely and legally made, to place him for adoption.
If UNICEF truly cared about the children of Guatemala it would not spend its time, energy, and oh yes, money focusing on their right to enjoy the culture of malnutrition and infant mortality by closing the “safety valve” of international adoption. Those of us who are educators are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If your stomach is empty and you don’t have a roof over your head, you’re not going to be able to do much in the way of the self-fulfillment and cultural self-actualization that seems to be UNICEF’s spending priority for the children of Guatemala.
Until UNICEF directs its efforts to addressing the primary needs of children in Guatemala – which will, I believe, lower the number of children placed for adoption – I will not be directing my money to UNICEF. I will instead, be directing it to grassroots organizations working directly with women and children in Guatemala to help them gain the skills and rights they need to be in an economic position where they don’t have to choose between watching their child starve or placing him/her for adoption. And I will make sure that others know that this is where their money is better spent. Sorry if that cuts into your paycheck, Kendra and Linda.
I agree with you, Ina (not a UNICEF ip), that UNICEF does do good in the world. But if you compare their actions in Guatemala to their mission – “We believe that nurturing and caring for children are the cornerstones of human progress… to work with others to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path. We believe that we can, together, advance the cause of humanity.” – it seems clear to me that their primary mandate should be to alleviate the root causes of poverty – not to focus substantial amounts of time, effort and money on opposing international adoption.