Category Archives: Relationships

Connecting Adoption’s Dots

I chatted online with Maeve’s first mom tonight. IM’d as the cool kids say.

Although I’ve been steadfast in my sometimes impatient desire for more — more contact in any and every which way — I’m having to remind myself here, right now in the blogosphere, to be happy for these small steps. Because these steps face forward. She’s in our lives and I have to respect — and have pledged to honor — the pace at which she wants or needs to move.

The time tonight spent typing back and forth was nice in that it was a real-time conversation, something we haven’t had since our last in-person visit quite a while back. It felt good knowing that in those moments, in that block of time, she and I were connected, literally and figuratively. In this busy world with our mutually busy days, we chatted. Each a mother to the same little girl, each reaching out to one another.

In talking to Maeve recently about her pregnant teacher’s expanding belly, the discussion moved from babies and babies in bellies to the fact that she’s been both a baby, and a baby in a belly. A baby in the belly of B.

If you ask her whose belly she grew in, she’ll tell you. Of course, at two and a half, her understanding is limited, both in biology and the layer that is adoption.

But. Still. She can answer the question. It’s a conversation we’re having. It’s part of the everyday-speak of our lives.

So tonight’s IM session felt like the lengthening of the ribbon that curves between and connects the small dots that are her adoption books tucked into overflowing bookshelves, the photos in our home of B. with Maeve, the telling of her story in those special moments, the other children she’s getting to know who also were adopted, and of course those baby-in-the-belly conversations.

Her first mom, her dad and I, all connecting with each other, connecting for her. A strong, wide ribbon twisting and turning along the path that is Maeve’s story and connecting the dots.

Dots that one day will bring to life a picture from which I know Maeve will draw conclusions about herself; a picture from which I hope she can answer the very questions it provokes; and a picture from which she will likely encounter myriad emotions.

How I hope that most often, in and among everything she draws from that picture, and from all of our efforts to connect during these days, is the love.

For there is so very much of it.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Relationships

She’s a star in my book

Before I get this ol’ girl back up and flying again with some fresh thoughts, I first must point everyone toward the pink star in the upper right sidebar. It’s for Judy, a dear online friend who often has made her presence known here in mamagigiville, and whose own blog I haunt.

Her adoptive mom status was our initial common denominator, but it’s her that keeps me coming back. She’s sassy, supportive (personal e-mails exchanged with her some time ago are just one of a gazillion indicators of that), wise, thoughtful, snarky as all get out, and she doesn’t match her socks. She’s wife to Frank and mom to six-year-old Nate, whose smile is as juicy and full of light as they come. 

Last month she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s navigating a new path now and trying to decipher each bit of medical information as it comes. Although there’s been a hiatus here for a while, I check in with her at Just Enjoy Him each day, like so many others, for an update or to show my support. If you’re so inclined, please take a moment to head there and offer her a simple sentence or two of support. The power of your kind words will last infinitely longer than the time it takes to send her a message.

In addition, the pink star planted in the sidebar leads you to a page for Judy, hosted by Dawn of This Woman’s Work, that lists some simple wishes from Judy herself, and some good ideas from Dawn. The star is a perfect symbol of our support and love for someone who is, herself, a star.

Several years ago, I participated in Avon’s three-day, 60-mile New York walk for the cure. Although fierce rain and eventual flooding actually cut everyone’s adventure there short (Ack! Took me three days just to dry out!), I raised several thousand dollars in my personal journey honoring several family members and friends affected by breast cancer. While those efforts certainly are just a tiny, rippleless drop in the vast ocean of efforts to find-a-cure efforts, each of us can continue to effect change — even one drop at a time.

In addition, of course, to making a direct donation to fund research in finding a cure, here’s a list of the current corporate partners of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure. Click individually to learn about their contributions to breast cancer research each time you patronize their companies.

Also, 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of The Power of Now tee through the retail store LF goes directly to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Yes, that’s right. 100 percent.

Until, as Judy says, she “Evicts the B*tch,” this pink star remains at the top of my blog, as she remains at the forefront of my thoughts each day. Fight the fight, sistah!

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Filed under Adoption, Friends, Making a difference, Relationships

Picturesque, indeed!

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On our way to Arizona (and peacefully ‘enough’ — thanks for all those tips!)

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First lollipop, happy airborne ears!

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Arrival landscape

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Finally! There he is! There he is! My dear nephew Dashiell!

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 Playground in the abstract

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From funky metal flowers …
to real and funky fauna:

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Impressive turquoise hardscape …

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Reunited cousin heartscape!

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Caught in the act: Butterfly awe

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A girl and her giraffe

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Happy hummingbird, elated photographer

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So, who blinked first?

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Maeve makes some new friends

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Headed into Tucson for dinner; met this sunset when we left the Taquiero

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A Taquerio dessert to go: mango, coconut, watermelon, pineapple and papaya drizzled with lemon juice, sprinkled with chili powder and ready for dipping into hot sauce

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The heat in Arizona ain’t so ‘prickly’ after all

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Watching S’mores do their thing

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First time brushing out those curls: ‘How high can they go?’

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Groovy thatch texture

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Critter ‘capture’

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There’s more nosin’ around to do — see ya’ll back on the East Coast!

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Family, For fun, Love, Maeve, Relationships, Vacation

Open adoption … and hope!

Did ya hear that big sigh of relief yesterday? Yeah? Well it was me.

It seems things are moving in the right direction again as Maeve’s first mom has made contact, explained some absolutely valid and quite personal reasons for not being touch, and more communication seems to be in our near future.

Of course the details of this seemingly temporary break in contact aren’t mine to share, but suffice it to say I am so very thrilled at her commitment to being in Maeve’s life. For her. For Maeve. For their future.

But! I won’t forget the dark — and sometimes suffocating in their power over me — worries that have bubbled to the surface as I watch Maeve in awe and wonder, through my lens of love, adoration and humility that she is even part of my life, and begin to wonder how I would help her embrace all of life’s happiness and find the self-fulfillment she deserves … when a piece of her own life puzzle might be missing forever.

Having known how that feels, having feared how it would be for Maeve in the coming years, those are thoughts that have further solidified (not that I was wavering) the importance of openness in adoption.

There’s also another lesson for me in this. A dose of perspective, considering the varied levels of openness and first parent involvement (and availability, of course)  in adoptions everywhere.

It’s my reminder to embrace every moment B. is in our lives, embrace not in the thankful way — because that has always been the case — but embrace in not being afraid to say or ask what I’m feeling/hoping/looking for. That’s something I regretted (as I’ve discussed very recently) when it came to thoroughly discussing a “plan” for the future. I naively thought there would be time for that. Now, though, I can’t let that happen. I want to be sure we talk about talking, about acknowledging the need for a break, about discussing when something needs tweaking, or when something is or isn’t working. I need to be sure we’re all not afraid to talk it out, that we’re committed to each other enough to listen to the hard parts and not throw in the towel. Certainly lessons I learn over and over when I read those who write with the authority of experience, Jenna chief among them.

Oh, I hear what you’re thinking. Cool your Communication Jets, mamagigi, there’s another side to this open-adoption coin. I know. As much as I want to say everything while I can, I know I must temper things and be sure to continue to let B. know that as we move forward, we always are willing to go at her pace. She controls that, and that’s okay with me.

I’m trying not to spew doublethink here, because it’s not. It’s just a multi-dimensional thing, adoption. (As if most of you didn’t already know that. Preachin’ to the choir.)

I know the future is unknown and surely full of hard work and a focused commitment from us all, but I’ll take it.  Because I’d had the comfort of the notion of a future for a year-plus, and then for a while I feared it might have been lost forever.

I’m happy to know those out here in blogville with experience far more established than mine. Because there’s always learning to do.

Just knowing (again) that B. wants to be involved in a future at all — and that this was hopefully just a winding curve in a long road we all will travel together — gives me hope.

And hope? Hope is bright and beautiful.

Just like the daughter we share.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Birth parents, Children, Discussing Adoption, Family, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Promises, Relationships, Still learning

Adoption talk, spot on

Here’s a well-reasoned, inspirational, informative, thought-provoking post that is perfectly matter-of-fact in its approach to explaining important transracial and adoption issues to one’s child. Something to aspire to. I’m so glad this woman’s work — literally — is on my blogroll.

In the next couple years, Maeve will likely find herself tackling similar questions. When she verbalizes these types of thoughts, feelings and concerns, may Thomas and I be this well-prepared and balanced in our approach. May we not always explain away her fears and sadness — a knee-jerk parental reaction to ease pain, of course — and instead know when to let her sit with them awhile and make sure she knows it’s alright to feel whatever she’s feeling. And that no matter what, we’re there.

We’re here, Maeve. We’re here for you and we love you just as you are. For who you are.

(As I’ve said before, if Maeve were biologically my child, she wouldn’t be the same little girl I adore so completely.)

And for those times when Maeve does need just the right answer to soothe her soul? May we have it, or be smart enough to know when we don’t. And in that case, may we do our damndest to find it.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Birth parents, Body image, Children, Discussing Adoption, Family, Growing up, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Relationships, Still learning

Open Adoption, Open Heart, And Needing More

I’ve had this post in my head for quite a while now. It’s existed in parts, none of them very well-expressed or complete in form, but I’m tired of it rattling in my head, and weighing so heavily in my heart, that I’m setting it free. In doing so perhaps there will be some relief, some comfort in just “speaking” it, or, if I’m really lucky, some guidance and comfort from those that understand — no matter which side of it they come from. Read on.  But pour yourself something cold to drink, you’ll be here awhile.

As folks hanging here for any length of time know, we’re in an open adoption with Maeve’s birthmother. Well, maybe I should tweak, for now, my description of it to call it a semi-open adoption in that our connection is through the adoption agency, through letters and photos, and an annual visit at an agency picnic. When we first began this journey, just even having this amount of contact was, for us, considered open. Not because it’s all we wanted, but because in Thomas’ own adoption, the dearth of detail is so real, the sealed records and blacked out information are the walls we face, he faces.

So meeting Maeve’s first mother, holding her, talking with her, sharing stories and details with her — it was like an adoption floodgate had opened. It was so wonderfully different than anything we’d known, so opposite of the closed adoption in our lives, the simplest way to describe it was open. Light had been let in, like fresh Spring air blowing through a newly opened window after a long winter of hatches battened down.

When I think of Thomas’ adoption, my mind conjures up stacks of paper, yellowed and dusty, banded together with elastics, placed in the corner of a Catholic Charities basement in Ohio, next to other stacks pointlessly detailing the lives of other babies born that month, that year. I see them being guarded by some governmental rule, by legislators not left dealing with the effects of decisions to keep my husband’s life — and myriad other lives — stacked tidy in a box somewhere. They’ve moved on to their next cause, and my husband’s story, his complete story not winnowed by Sharpie marker gone wild, sits somewhere. Seemingly forgotten, with no one to care about it.

But it’s not so. Someone does care. Someone hasn’t forgotten. And as the wife of someone whose origins, whose story of his very own life, are kept so mysterious and tucked away, I care. Deeply.

And this is why, when we began our own adoption journey, openness was a light leading us forward.

When we were selected by B. to parent Maeve, we learned her selection of our agency had to do with its focus on open adoptions. A few days after we were placed — while Thomas, Maeve and I remained in her birthstate waiting for legalities — we all sat down together, meeting for the first time. The emotions were so high. It was like nothing I’ve ever been close to before — or since.

We hugged. We talked. We were all nervous. We were all pleasant. We were all there for the good of Maeve. We were all humans joined by the force of this little life before us. The scope of it all was not lost on me. As I sat in the same room as the woman who just a few days earlier shared with Maeve the single-most intimate experience I can imagine — the birth of a daughter by her mother, I tried to take freeze frame images in mind. I knew that The Future Maeve wouldn’t be able to piece together that day in any tangible way other than what those of us there could share with her. I tried so hard to remember, amid my own emotional roller coaster, to pry my eyes open from the ride and just watch, for her. Just remember the images, the movements, the words shared, I told myself.

It was in that first visit that a role I hadn’t really thought about before, had come to be. I needed to be there to preserve whatever I could for her until one day she takes the information, the relationship I hoped to forge with her first mom, and forge ahead herself, her own heart and vision leading her.

Considering the enormity of the day, the joy and sadness, and all the nuances needing considering, the day’s overall tone in my mind is recorded as gentle, as special, with a genuine goodness to it. Because despite fears and nerves and complexities, and because a little new life deserved it, we had all come together.

Yet there is something I would change about that day. 

At the time, we just went along with the minimum required by our agency, letters and photos monthly until one year, then letters and photos yearly until age 18, and visits at the agency’s annual picnic. While the idea of photos and letters suddenly didn’t feel like enough at the time of our actual placement, everything was so incredibly emotional and new, and it seemed like there would be plenty of time for us all to move forward together and get to know each other through our letters and visits, and open our relationship more as time passed. After all, just days earlier, at the time of placement, we were told that B. wasn’t sure if she was ready to meet us. When we learned she wanted to meet, that afternoon’s event became my focus, wanting it to go well, wanting to be able to get across all the things I felt and wanted to share, despite being frazzled and overtired and human.

My biggest regret. I would have written out our full names, our address, our telephone numbers and email addresses and put them into B.’s hands myself. If she wasn’t ready to do anything with them then, well, at least I knew she had them should she become ready.

When we met again 10 months later at the first picnic after placement with Maeve, I sat on a blanket, nervous and fearful that B. might, in the last moments before traveling to us, need to stay away, to pass on this second meeting since placement. She was late, and as the minutes ticked by, I wrestled with my hopes and expectations, reminding myself that really I am just a third party in all this. I can work to make her feel welcome and wanted in our lives, I can follow through and get Maeve there for B. should she decide to join us — but her walking into the park that day? That had to be up to her.

A weight lifted from me when I saw her in the distance. She waved a gentle “hiya” wave, like she was meeting someone in a crowd and wanted to get their attention, a casual someone or other she’d met for lunch the week before. It was a strange and unexpected sense of famliarity I felt toward B. Like seeing a good friend after a long time. It’s a strange juxtaposition, knowing someone a short time and not that well, yet feeling an intimacy toward them usually reserved for family and longtime friends. It’s a connection both simultaneously shallow and deep — the brevity of the relationship contrasted with the depth of its emotion, commitment, connection and love. Lots of history in a little period of history.

During that visit, I asked if I’d been sending too many photos with my letters, if my writings were too detailed, too specific, too much — or not enough. (When I write B., my words come from the deepest part of me that loves this child and the woman sharing her with me. I try to share everything about Maeve that I would desperately want to know if I wasn’t in her life every day. I share everything I think her hurting mama heart might need to know. They are handwritten and many, many pages, trying to best capture on paper the living, breathing existence that is our litle girl and the life she is living. Paper doesn’t do the reality justice, but, oh, how I try.)

Her answer to my queries? She’s enjoying the letters and their detail, and laughed at me worrying so much. And as for “too many photos”? She said, and notice the quote marks, “There can never be too many.”

I was so happy to hear her say that about the baby before us. To me, it was a statement on where she stood, on her connection to Maeve. Something I could share with Maeve one day. Something B. herself could share with Maeve one day.

As for B. writing to Maeve or us, she sent a letter a few months after B. was born and placed — and it’s a most-beautiful sentiment and something so dear to us. But it’s the only letter we’ve received. She’s mentioned writing again, mentioned getting photos and a letter together. But nothing has come.

This summer was the second agency picnic since we were placed with Maeve. A few months before, I learned through the social worker that serves as the link between us, that B. was excited for the picnic and would be bringing additional family members. Thrilled doesn’t adequately describe how I felt.

We extended, via letter, the formal invite as the agency encourages, and in that letter I also expressed our desire to increase contact, to open our relationship, to let additional light shine in. While I explained we wanted to share telephone numbers, addresses, emails and increased real-life visits in her state or ours, I made clear that, should she agree, we could proceed at her pace toward any degree of openness she desired. In asking her to consider it, I explained that if she didn’t want to change the openness at this time, we would honor her wishes.

Weeks later as the picnic neared and no offical rsvp rolled in, I began to worry: Had I scared B. away? Attempts to reach her with the social worker conduit were unsuccessful.

The picnic came. This time I was determined not to sit on the picnic blanket, stomach in knots, worried whether she would join us. Since Maeve was older now and able to partake in some of the park and picnic activities, we made sure various social workers and agency staffers knew where we were in the park should B. come. Maeve had her first face painting (on her leg), she played with other children in a volleyball pit, watched the band in awe, looked in on some older children and their families playing soccer, she walked around like she owned the place, petting a dog that passed her by and nibbling lunch and enjoying time with us at our picnic spot.

Was my head on a swivel the entire time? Yes. Did I mistake other women with similar body type and hair — from a distance and in between the trees — hoping it was her? Yes. Did she come? No.

This was in June — just a few months after her sharing with the social worker how excited she was to come. I’ve since sent her a letter again expressing that if she isn’t interested in or ready for additional contact, then we respect her wishes, but me asking for additional contact was never meant to lose the contact we already had. (Of course, it’s just been two months since the picnic.) I included in the letter the information I wish I’d given her the first time we met. Address, phone numbers, emails, all the details a Sharpie marker can wreak havoc on.

Between our history with Thomas’ adoption and our love for Maeve’s first mom, I find myself in a position where all I can do is wait. Wait and continue to follow through with the commitment we made, but all the while I don’t know what B. is thinking. I don’t know how to reach her (and I don’t mean literally). I have to reconcile with the fact she may not want additional contact at this time — I cringe, because I know that qualifier is necessary for me just to type that statement.

Inconsistent contact is hard. Painful even. And Maeve is only two. So right now the pain is for me and Thomas to bear. As talks with Maeve about B. occur in our home, as she points to B. in the photo album from their last visit and says her name, as she sees B. holding her and playing with her in these photos, I wonder what she’s thinking. She looks intently, proud to name the cast of characters in a very real-life situation. The possibility of contact broken breaks my heart.

Desperately wanting contact and conversations and to make more memories — wanting all of this for the child that we share with B., so that one day Maeve doesn’t face the life-sized question marks that her dad faces — and not knowing when and if a response will find its way to us? It’s almost too much to bear.

Yet it’s all countered with knowing that B. has to be ready, has to want it too. This isn’t my shot to call. She’s a primary player in this. It’s her story, too.

I do know I must keep on keeping on. I will continue to write, continue to document in pictures the life her daughter is living,  continue to remember B.’s birthday, holidays, Mother’s Day.

For Maeve. For B. For the commitment we made. For the next time we are all together. For the possibility of it all.

Still, though, having the contact, relishing in it, and then wondering when it next will appear is more difficult than I would have predicted a few years ago, sitting clean-faced and shiny-shoed in an office opposite a social worker. I would have blindly reasoned then that at least that contact is worlds more than what Thomas has. And I would have reasoned that somehow that would be enough. Oh, how wrong I would have been.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m grateful for what we do have. The letter, the visits we’ve had so far, the photos of it all, the records of Maeve’s birth, the meeting with B.’s siblings. I am. Yet, it’s not enough. Not consistent enough. Not enough for the whole of us, the whole of our family. The family of which she is such an important part.

Whether it’s the unknowns of intermittent contact or the biting coolness of a Sharpie marker in a third-party’s hand — darkness in adoption takes its toll.

Anyone from any angle able to shed light on the darkness?

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Closed Adoption, Discussing Adoption, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parental surrenders, Parenting, Promises, Relationships, Still learning, The Call

Favorite things

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I was thinking recently about how, despite a comfortable home and all its stuff, there are just a few things inside it that actually have a deep, sentimental, in-the-gut connection for me. Things not necessarily of great financial value, but of utmost import personally and emotionally. Some bring me great happiness; others are bittersweet. Thought I’d share some of them now and then. Here are two.

Topping the list is Maeve’s adoption box, which includes hospital records, her birth certificate and anything written to her by her first mother B. In that same vein, photos of Maeve with B., and all of us together; and the stuffed animal B. gave her four days after her birth, when everyone gathered the first time.

My Pandora bracelet. A gift to me from Thomas and Maeve on my first Mother’s Day. When I received it, there were three charms: one to symbolize our dating years, one our marriage (a three-tiered wedding cake), and one the arrival of Maeve into our lives (an old-fashioned baby carriage).

Since then, a few more have been added as birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated, even any old day made special. A dangling pearl marks my birthday, the garnet my all-time favorite stone. The black Murano glass bead and small daisy-like flower is especially beautiful to me. The charms move loosely along the bracelet, jingling when I move my arm.

Since a day hardly goes by that I’m not wearing my bracelet, Maeve is accustomed to seeing it on my wrist. The best part is that as she grows and learns, she discovers a new piece, running her little fingers along its path. Cake! she exclaims, delighted with herself. As she befriends a charm, I share its story, re-living its history — more for my own sake, I imagine.

I look forward to filling and crafting a most unique and personal piece over the years, until one day the completed bracelet is a representation of me, the paths I’ve traveled, the people I’ve loved, the experiences we’ve shared. Something that hopefully will be treasured in some way by those here long after me.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Birth parents, Birthdays, Children, Family, For fun, Gifts, Husbands, Life changes, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Relationships, Treasures