Do My Birthparents Love Me?

Since we decided to adopt I’ve kept a mental list of questions our child might ask about adoption. Whenever our daughter, now seven, wants to talk about adoption, I do my best to stop whatever I’m doing and focus on her.

We can go months without a mention of adoption. And then there are times when questions come in rapid succession.

Last night, as she was snuggled on my lap before bedtime, she asked “Mom, did my birth mom love me?” There was a hint of sadness in her voice.

“Oh, YES!” I said before kissing her on the cheek and hugging her tight. “She loves you very much.”

We adopted our daughter through open adoption. We know why our daughter’s birthparents chose adoption. We met them before she was born and heard about how excited they were to meet her. We were at the hospital with them as they held her close and covered her with kisses. We saw firsthand their love for her.

I hope our daughter will come to know in her heart that her birthparents both loved her very much when they chose adoption. And their love, like ours, is everlasting.

Thanks & Gratitude in Adoption

Showing gratitude in an adoption can be tricky business. How do you say thank you to the people who created the baby that becomes your son or daughter?

The moment I laid eyes on our daughter I was in love. I was immensely grateful to the couple who were making it possible for me to be her mom. How could I possibly express my gratitude to her birth parents?

While we all marveled at the new baby I saw the pride and love they had for her. And I saw their pain too. I saw them struggling with the thought of not parenting the baby they had created. I saw them hurting in ways I could only begin to imagine.

Logically I knew I wasn’t responsible for their pain or their struggle. I wasn’t responsible to fix their hurt. But emotionally I wasn’t convinced.

My gratitude didn’t feel like enough. They were making a sacrifice I would never make. Their loss was my gain. Therefore, I decided their emotional needs were more important than mine.

I felt I needed to make sure I never forgot their sacrifice. I wanted to find a way to ensure they understood how grateful I was for the tremendous gift they gave our family. If I was successful maybe it would ease their pain, make the struggle a little easier and help them heal. Maybe I could stop feeling responsible for their hurt.

So, I figured I needed to find a way to acknowledge and respond to their hurt whenever they asked me to. When they called I needed to answer. When they asked for pictures I needed to ask how many. When they told me they wished they never chose me to raise their daughter, I needed to accept it and absorb the pain.

Thankfully seven years of hindsight has brought a deeper understanding of my experience. I did not cause our daughter’s birthmother’s pregnancy. I did not make her chose adoption. I am not responsible for her healing.

I have shown gratitude toward our daughter’s birth parents. I have said thank you many times and each time I did I meant it. And I show my gratitude, for both my children, every day by continuing to be the best parent I can be.

A Month of Anniversaries

I love anniversaries. The happy ones, the sad ones, the ones I wouldn’t remember if it weren’t for Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. Anniversaries provide an opportunity to stop, reflect and celebrate. I try to appreciate what I have, where I’ve been, and spend a few minutes dreaming about what’s to come.

Every year as our daughter’s birthday approaches I take time to remember the events that unfolded in the month before she was born. We had waited over a year for our family to be chosen by a birthmother, and by the time our daughter’s birthparents were introduced to us, we only had a few weeks to prepare.

I think about the morning I decided to click through my junk folder instead of automatically deleting everything. If I’d followed my normal routine I never would have seen the adoption agency email about a couple expecting a baby girl. I think about how we sat at a table in a 24-hour restaurant a week later trying to get to know the people who would make us parents. And I think about the Saturday I let our four year old help me paint the nursery. (It turned out he and I made quite an efficient painting crew.)

And I remember struggling to put her crib together, on what turned out to be the night before her birthmother went in to labor. I wanted our daughter’s nursery to be ready and waiting for her when we brought her home.

So now every year as the days lengthen and the weather warms I celebrate the anniversary of those four short weeks before we finally met our daughter. And every year these events are a reminder of the thousands of decisions that had to align for the baby girl with big blue eyes to become our daughter.

Just a Little Love

I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately. When I was little love was a tight hug, a kiss on the cheek, a feeling of safety and protection.

Then love changed to an intoxication I become lost in, overwhelming my thoughts. The amount of love measured by the depth of the feeling.

And now love is … action. It’s found in all the little things we do every day to treat each other with respect, to give compassion, to put away the technology and share a moment with someone special.

Love is now a source of strength, giving me the courage to make hard choices and fight for what matters most.

Let’s remember to share a little love, not just today … but every day.

Open Adoption -Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Eight years ago, faced with secondary infertility, we decided to adopt a child. After hours of research, we chose open adoption.

We learned a lot through the over year-long rollercoaster ride of adoption. And holding our newborn daughter in my arms I felt the euphoria of a dream realized and knew there was another woman beginning to deal with a tremendous loss.

As I read Amy Seek’s piece Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math in the New York Times this week I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my cheeks.

In rapid succession I relived eight years of experiences in the ten minutes it took to read the article. I lingered over some sentences, letting their meaning sink in and thinking about how those key lines related to our experience of open adoption.

Seek’s description of herself, a near Xerox copy of the birthmother I had dreamed up while we waited to be chosen, is very different from the woman who gave birth to our daughter.

Seek writes about the ‘exceptional commitment’ it takes the adoptive family to keep the adoption open. I don’t know if it was her intent, the bias I bring based on our experience or a little bit of both, but I cringed as I read and reread that sentence.

In my experience, it takes ‘exceptional commitment’ from the adoptive family as well as the birthparents to make an open adoption work. And in our case, no matter how hard any of us tried, parts of the relationship between our daughter and her birthparents had to be closed.

We still talk to our daughter about her birthparents. We openly and honestly answer her questions. We send pictures a few times a year to her birthparents so they can see how she’s growing and glimpse the person she’s becoming.

When we decided on open adoption, we thought we would have the opportunity to build a relationship with our child’s birthmother very similar to the one Seek describes. After reading the article, I find myself once again grieving for the experiences we will never have. And I grieve for my daughter, that she can’t go for walks in the woods with her birthmother and enjoy time alone with her.

I often wonder about our daughter’s experience of life and family. I wish I could crawl inside her head to see and feel the world as she does. I want to understand. I want to anticipate her questions so I can be ready with answers. And I want to know when the time is right to re-open what we had to close, so she has the opportunity to build a relationship with her birthmother.

Seek is right, there is no simple math in open adoption. There are simply too many variables. There is no way of knowing what the relationships between the birth and adoptive family members will be like. But there’s one thing for certain, there are many people who love the child at the center of the relationships that open adoption creates.

 Number of Parents

A couple days before Christmas, with a few days off, I had time to cross some personal to dos off my list. As my husband and I coordinated our family’s schedule for the next day, our daughter overheard my plans and asked to come along.

Being a working mom I try to spend my days off with the kids, but sometimes I really just want me time. And the first item on my list for the next day was my annual mammogram. I wasn’t sure how bringing her along would go. She’s so inquisitive and was sure to have a lot of questions. How do you explain a mammogram to a 6 year old?

But when she looked up at me with her big blue eyes, how could I say no? “Please Mommy, I don’t want to hang out with stinky boys!” she pleaded.

“Sure sweetheart, you can come along,” I said leaning down to give her a kiss on the cheek.

The next morning as we sat in the waiting room at the radiology clinic, I did my best to explain what a mammogram was and why I was having it done. “Ew, gross! Taking pictures of your breasts?” Her nose wrinkled in disgust. “And you have to take off your bras?” (Yep, bras plural. According to her two breasts can only fit in a bras.)

The technician led us to a small exam room and began asking me questions to make sure I was the patient whose records were on her screen. Name, date of birth, reason for my appointment. My daughter sat on my lap and I answer the technician’s questions without much thought.

“Number of children?” I could tell she was trying to sound kind and interested, but was bored of the routine.

“Two,” I said giving my daughter a quick squeeze.

“I only have one here,” her tone laced with a drop of annoyance, “2004.”

“Yes, that’s my son,” I said as realization dawned. “Is your question number of pregnancies?” I raised my eyebrows as I held her eye contact, hoping she’d catch the full meaning behind my question. There’s an important difference between number of children and number of pregnancies. I do believe the information you’re trying to confirm is number of pregnancies, I thought.

“Yes.”

“That’s a different question,” I said trying to keep the annoyance out of my voice as adrenaline rushed through me. “I’ve had one pregnancy, your information is correct.” She looked at me with a quizzical look, “She’s adopted.” I said feeling frustration rise.

“Oh,” she replied brightly, “You have two sets of parents,” she said to my daughter.

Heat rose to my cheeks as I tried to quickly figure out how to respond. What was my daughter thinking? What would I say to the technician? What questions would my daughter ask me as we walked back to the car?

Before I could say anything my daughter responded, “I have three kinds of parents. Parents, birth parents, and Godparents.” How does she do that? How does she bring out the simplicity of her experience.

“She’s lucky to have so many people who love her,” I said giving her a peck on the cheek. “Are we ready to take the images now?” I asked the technician, anxious for the appointment to end.

The experience reminded me once again that adoption expands your family tree in new and unexpected ways. It also expands your heart’s capacity for love and changes your definition of family.

Love continues to grow. Last night her Godfather came for dinner with his fiancé. They’re getting married in September and my daughter is excited to attend her first wedding. She’s been so excited she even designed the dress she wants to wear on their big day. Her Godfather and his fiancé are family, uncles to be silly with and share her life.

To show her excitement she made them a bouquet of flowers, with a vase to hold them in. Sharing her artistic talent with two of her favorite guys.

Her capacity to love is one of the many unexpected lessons she has taught me.

A quick look back before looking ahead …

As 2015 comes to an end, I took a few minutes to appreciate this year’s highlights and get excited about 2016.

This year we had some fun family adventures. What really stuck with me  was just how fast our kids are growing up.

I made time to nurture our daughter’s interest in art.

In July, on my trip to New York City, I crossed two things off my bucket list – Visiting the Today Show & going to the top of the Empire State Building.

And just yesterday, I finished the edits on my book The Making of a Mom. An important step in achieving a goal I’ve had for over 30 years.

In 2016 I’m looking forward to more adventures with my crazy little family, publishing my first book, and going on a personal adventure or two.

Wishing you a new year filled with joy, peace, and love.