Scaring Away the Adoption Goblins

As published in the Spring AFTH newsletter — click my mama column logo at the right to access the complete newsletter:

Every so often I read — or even am told by virtual strangers — that adoption is scary. Some of these folks are prospective adoptive parents considering whether or how adoption fits in their lives, and others have little knowledge of adoption outside of the relatively rare — considering the number of adoptions annually — stories of scams or situations gone awry picked up by the media.

So, is adoption scary? Yes.

But not for what might be considered the “obvious” reasons. Let’s start at the beginning.
Adoption means opening your heart to a child that didn’t come from your womb, loving a child not created with your own genetic contribution.

(Nope. Not the scary part.)

Although my husband and I did the obligatory research at the start of our adoption process, we actually brought to the table experience from another side of adoption. My husband was adopted in the 1970s, the era of closed records, and knows very little about his story, his own nature versus nurture, and the people responsible for bringing him into the world. Between everything we learned about openness in adoption, and everything we already knew about being part of a closed adoption, our choice and preference for openness was clear.

The agency classes that followed explained the practical parts of an open adoption: a minimum of letters, photos and an annual picnic visit.

(And no, that’s not scary either.)

After all, my own longing to become a parent and the loss in not yet having a child in my life made me acutely aware of the intensity wrapped up in motherhood. As much as I wanted to be a mom, I couldn’t let my own motherhood somehow negate another woman’s. So cultivating a relationship between my child and his or her other mother was something I hoped for.

(Still not shaking in my boots.)

Truth is, after placement, I made it through all that without any trouble. After all:
• Loving Maeve? Piece of cake!
• Writing long, lovingly detailed letters to her first mother? Not a problem!
• Sharing copies of the loads of photos we were taking? Nothing to it!

At our first picnic, I watched with awe as my 11-month old interacted with her first mom. Like the paparazzi, I snapped photos all afternoon, capturing moments I knew only they could share.

When it was time to say goodbye, the tears pushing themselves from my face reflected the sadness I hadn’t realized was building inside me that day. My daughter would have no recollection of that sweet afternoon in the park, or the time spent in her first mother’s arms.

(Now that? That scared me.)

I was scared of losing contact with Maeve’s first mother, scared she would decide it was too hard and pull away, scared she would decide to close any openness we had and Maeve would lose the vital connection to her story.

Since my daughter was born two and a half years ago, our relationship with her first mother has grown — especially so in the last year.

Although Maeve’s first mom may need a break periodically, I’m trusting in the conversations we’ve had about communicating that and other needs as they arise. While I’m aware there will be an ebb and flow to this special relationship, I also know we all have Maeve’s best interests at heart. Last week we sent a rainbow Maeve painted to her first mom, as well as a little gift for a special member of her first family. We’ve exchanged full names, addresses, phone numbers and I created a special e-mail address just for our communications.

We’ve chatted by instant messenger — sometimes just to simply say hello — and we’ve begun to talk about getting together this summer for a weekend.

Doing these things erases nothing from me — rather, it brings me more fulfillment as Maeve’s mother because I see all the parts of her present in her life and know I’m doing everything in my power to raise a happy, whole child.

Go ahead. Ask Maeve whose belly she grew in and she’ll tell you.

Ask her how much I love her and her arms fly open wide.

These are the moments and conversations of her truth that remedy even the most scary adoption goblins.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Scaring Away the Adoption Goblins

  1. brown325

    Beautiful 🙂

  2. Very sweet and beautiful! Everyone has their own scary issues..adopted or not…

    Our adoption issues are scary because of all the unknowns…

    I hope our friendship has enriched you to the additional joys of open adoption. I know our friendship has brought us personal satisfaction because your family is incredibly wonderful and positive! However, when I read your blog/see your family I also have a little sadness because of all the answers Maeve has/will have Kelsey will never know. Plus the major envy over potty training! 😉

    I am only starting to talk about Kelsey’s China Mommy now…casually bringing it up in conversation in the car between Wiggles songs and talks about her kitties. I want to keep it light because she can’t ask the “why” questions yet. She knows she is Chinese and is starting to understand what that means and she knows she’s “adopted” and we went to China on an airplane to bring her home to her house…but those are abstracts to her as opposed to Maeve’s first Mom who is concrete.

    PAP’s thinking about adoption…I know the lure of International is strong and we went there for many, many reasons…but the very best reason to adopt via domestic open adoption is so your child has as little pain as possible once she/he fully understands.

    Sorry for hijacking your post! 🙂

  3. jessica

    That was such a nice post..i enjoyed it a lot!

  4. Wait! Wait until the day Maeve says: “You’re not my real mother!” Wait till she asks you why her first mother couldn’t keep her, or why you didn’t help her to do so. There are plenty of scary days ahead. or, perhaps someday little Maeve will master the Internet and ask why you wrote all this stuff about her, using her name.

    Enjoy this Mothers’ Day while Maeve is not yet all that cognitive…the “best” is yet to come. And it really tops the “terrible” twos!

  5. To clarify, I write as the mother of four adult chidlren…three of whom I raised, one who was lost to adoption as an infant and is now deceased.

    I remember my big sister always saying to me: “Little children, little problems…wait!” She was SO right!

    I an also concerned that ‘scary away goblins” doe snot become sugar-coating the truth and leave anyone ill-prepared. parenting is the toughest job in the world. A recent study found that 31% of all new mothers were “clueless.” http://tinyurl.com/68tv9t

    Parenting is TOUGH, parenting a child with unknown genetics is far tougher! There is no way to be prepared for the first time your child tells you they hate you. No way. Nothing will soften that pain.

  6. tynia

    Mirah dear, you seem bitter and self loathing because of the guilt you bare for giving up your own child. Your comments about Maeve saying “Your not my real mom”, and her searching the web and sees her name, blah, blah, blah, are completely exaggerated.

    Children are children. Adopted or not. They need to be loved and nurtured. A part of nurturing is teaching them right from wrong, good manners, courtesy to others, and respect and honor for their parents to say the least. So, if Maeve says to her new mommy, “I hate you; you’re not my mom.” new mommy has to understand that it is her job to correct Maeve and let her know that her words were hurtful and unacceptable. I’m pretty sure your children have said things like this to you. You may have heard, “I wish Tommy’s mom was my mom; I hate it here” a time or two. And you gave birth to them. The hurt you felt is the same hurt adoptive moms feel.

    The keys to managing these painful experiences are to 1.) realize that although you did not give birth to this child, this child has been given to you as a special gift from God just as every other child in the world. 2.) You have the right to let your child know that your are their mother! You love them and would go through hell’s fire for them. 3.) Don’t let ignorant people belittle your role in your child’s life. You are important and deserve respect. 4.) Remember that they are children and they can say things that they do not really mean. They act out of their emotions and in a moment of frustration and anger can say things that they don’t mean and will really regret. 5.) Most importantly, don’t allow your child to play on your emotions to get what they want. Correct the situation and be consistent on your position about whatever caused the child to act out in the first place.

    For the record I am in the process of adopting a beautiful baby girl. I’ve had her since she was five days old and she knows me as mommy. She also knows and understands as much as a three year old can, that I am adopting her. She knows her birth mom is her mom as well.

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