Category Archives: Someone else said

Openness: Yours, mine and theirs

While the amount of contact with B. has increased as time has passed, I’d always considered ours an open adoption. Even from our Day One in both her and Maeve’s lives.

Dawn’s written a wonderful post about open adoptions that not only covers some of the varied ways it’s defined — a nice primer for those new to the concept and making assumptions about what it means to all those involved — but simultaneously debunks some of its common misconceptions and talks about how foster care has impacted the movement toward openness.

Best of all, her words resonated with me as she stated what, for me and so many others, is the bottom line in all of this:

“… at the heart of it is that belief that connection — in whatever form works — matters to our kids.”

Amen, sistah.

Hop on over and have a read for yourself.

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Filed under Birth parents, Discussing Adoption, Open Adoption, Someone else said

Ever the optimist

This morning I was helping Maeve get dressed and when she slid a sock over her toes I noticed a dime-sized hole in the sock. “Oh noooo!” I said, pointing to the spot on the side of her foot.

She looked down, her mouth fell open, and she declared with delight: “Mommy! A wiiindooow!”

Hmmph. Now that’s seeing the glass half-full.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, For fun, Maeve, Parenting, Someone else said

Out of the mouths of babes

Hoo boy.

(Or, in this case, girl.)

You know how you spend the first year of baby’s life waiting for them to speak?

With bated breath you await the first “mama,” the first “dada.”

Then comes wanting to see them make connections, and begin to use newly learned words like “up” and “down,” “cat” and “dog.” And “shoe.” (My first word. Quite appropos, considering my, um, affection for them.) 

The next step, evidently, is the day that baby uses her words and understanding of concepts you’ve taught her — and embarrasses the You-Know-What out of you.

And since she’s two, this surely is just the tip of the iceberg.

***

While driving out to the lakeside cottage recently for a weekend getaway with friends, we stopped midway for a dinner break and to give Maeve time out of her carseat.

During dinner, we were seated in a booth and rather than continue to keep her cooped up by placing her in a highchair (which is getting small for her anyway), we sat her in the booth with us. She was very interested in the man seated behind us, and it seemed to be a bit of a flirt session for her. She would smile — and since I didn’t want to encourage the looking behind at someone, I wasn’t turning to see his reaction — I imagine he must have smiled back at her because she would giggle, get shy and turn back to her food.

We explained the need for her to leave the man alone, turn around and focus on her own dinner.

As we were winding down and waiting for our check, she regained her interest in the diner behind us. (I should properly set the stage here and explain that for a Friday night, the restaurant was very quiet.)

Quiet, that is, until Maeve had a declaration to make. And declare she did:

“Mah-meeee,” she cooed, “the man makin’ mess!”

Embarassed by her need to comment on our booth-neighbor’s eating habits, I stiffened in my seat and decided to ignore her comment in the hopes she would find interest in something else. Yes, I would pretend I didn’t hear her.

Bad idea. After all, what do toddlers do when they don’t get a verbal affirmation of their comment to you?

They repeat it.

Louder.

I tried to distract her with the remaining peas and carrots on her plate — ha! — but she had something to say and wanted to be sure I heard her.

Well, I wasn’t the only one.

Finally, the man spoke up. He asked Maeve if he had indeed made a mess when eating his dinner.

“Oooh. Big one!” she declared.

And then I swear I saw her bat her eyelashes and pick up with the flirting.

Yes, flirting with the man who evidently makes a mess — mind you, by a toddler’s standards, no less! — when he eats.

***

Just a few days later, I began prepping Maeve for her opthalmologist check-up. Although she’s been a patient of this doctor since she was just a few weeks old, she’s now of the age that she would better understand — and likely not want any part of — the flashlight and drops-in-the-eye routine.

I explained that the doctor — Dr. Rousta — would be looking at her eyes. That she takes care of Maeve’s big, brown eyes and since we use our eyes to see pretty flowers and our kitty cats, we would need to let the doctor take care of them.

She seemed to take it all in, even repeating the doctor’s name — “Doktah Rooooooostah look at Maeve eyes!”

Yeah, I thought to myself, I’ve got this one all under control.

As we were escorted to the exam room on appointment day, I wanted to remind Maeve what would be happening.

“Now Maeve, what does Dr. Rousta do?” I asked.

She beamed. And declared, just as I saw the good doctor approaching in the hallway, “Cock-a-doodle-doooooo!!!”

I smiled sheepishly and she continued the conversation with herself.

“Doktah Chicken? Bawk! bawk! bawk!”

Rrrright.

NaBloPoMo Stats: 3 down, 27 to go.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Maeve, NaBloPoMo, Parenting, Someone else said

Outer Banks … Inner Jab

There’s that line in a Jewel song about being sensitive and wanting to stay that way. I remind myself of that chorus if ever I feel like someone has intentionally poked and twisted sharp and hurtful words into me, my heart, my soul. As difficult as it can be when this happens — for me, it’s especially so in the moment when my response is lost, mired somewhere in disbelief — I remind myself of that song. My skin is most definitely not thick. But really, I’d not want it any other way. I’d rather be sensitive — the opposite just isn’t an attractive option.

Where am I going with this? Well, having just returned from a fabulous extended-family vacation in the warm and sunny Outer Banks, I’d like to get one less-than-fabulous thing off my chest before returning to my regularly scheduled programming — which, by the way, includes some recollections of a terrific time in Nags Head with Maevey Gravy and family.

But first, bear with me a bit about a funny comment directed to me during the vacation. Definitely not of the ha-ha variety, this comment was said to me by a child. An innocent-enough comment from a child’s mouth.

So this isn’t about anger or how I should have or could have responded. It’s more about how, as an adoptive mom, sometimes everyday situations are not so everyday. How this little one’s comment really got me thinking. Me. You know, as an adoptive mother.

One evening Maeve had a meltdown. During dinner she didn’t want to sit correctly in her chair. After kneeling a while, she began to try to stand and eat. Thomas and I repeatedly corrected her and she broke into tears. Hysterical tears. We brought her to our room so as not to disrupt the others finishing their meal and tried to calm her. It was a most unusual breakdown on her part — clearly something specific was bothering her. (Turns out the reason behind her suffering actually was directly related to her not being able to sit. Oh, just read on.)

A few of the children (there were seven of Maeve’s cousins at the vacation house) followed us into our room as we cared for a very upset Maeve. During the crying, I had her lay on the bed so I could check her diaper. She wanted none of it, pushing me away from the waistband of her shorts, bawling until her face was inflamed and nose was running uncontrollably. As Tom and I each tried to calm her, one of the cousins who had followed to see what was wrong with Maeve, touched my arm to get my attention and, after asking why Maeve was upset, flatly stated — and I can still hear the voice in my mind —  “You never should have adopted her.”

In the middle of all that screaming I’m sure I actually heard silence.

Pure silence.

I was stunned. Where was that coming from? Why would they say that? My thoughts ran the gamut from it being a personal attack on my parenting ability to one on my daughter herself:

Was it meant to say that because I couldn’t tame this two-year-old’s tantrum I wasn’t fit as a mom? I ran it through my head again.

You never should have adopted her.

Was it because Maeve was so upset and acting out so loudly with tears, sobs and anger that somehow she wasn’t fit to be here, to be part of the family? Again, it ran through my head.

You never should have adopted her.

No matter where I placed the emphasis, the sentence didn’t — still doesn’t — get any better. Despite it not improving with varied intonation and pronounciation, I reminded my wounded self the comment has come from a child.

No I wasn’t angry. Hurt, sure. But the more I thought about that exchange — my response, by the way, was “Why would you say that?” — I realized my feelings weren’t ultimately about the child commentor and their stinging words. Most of that sting is frustration that sometimes, for an adoptive parent, the very act of parenting can be different than others’.

What biological parent on that same vacation would ever be told, while their child cries, “You never should have had her.”

It just wouldn’t happen. Ever.

I hope that as time passes, as the kids in both of our extended families grow alongside Maeve, they learn that she’s just like any of them. Nothing more, nothing less. She’s just another cousin. Her adoption isn’t something that should surround her, envelop her, making her a present-tense case of “She is adopted.”

Of course, this two-year-old’s meltdown had nothing to do with her being adopted or with us adopting her. It’s just something a two-year-old girl (who happens to have been adopted) did. Period.

As much as I hope in my travels, writings, relationships and conversations, to help others — including our families — better understand adoption, open adoption especially, and the importance of embracing Maeve’s story and history, I hope they simultaneously realize that while she has a special story that must be respected, she is also, quite simply, just one of them. Another child in the family acting like any other child in the family has acted. In this case, her adoption backstory isn’t necessary.

This isn’t to say that during the vacation I didn’t welcome adoption topics, adoption questions, should they come my way. (Anyone visiting me here for anytime at all knows that talking about adoption is of the utmost importance to me.) Several other cousins of Maeve’s asked adoption-related questions. One asked if her “real mom had named her.” (Ouch on the use of “real,” but still, a question I gladly answered.) Another not present for this last question asked, on an entirely different day, why we didn’t name her. I wasn’t sure what they meant until I realized they thought Maeve was the name given her by her birth mother. In both cases, I used the random questions while splashing about in the pool or digging in the sand to explain. I explained that her birth mother hadn’t given her a name because she told us she specifically wanted us to choose it. I also explained that her birth mother also liked the first and middle names we ultimately chose and their meanings, all very intentional on our part.

Through the conversations I tried to share, to enlighten, to explain while not using the exchanges as a pulpit. I simply answered nonchalantly and honestly. Matter-of-factly. After all these are just the facts surrounding Maeve’s adoption and in sharing them that way with the children, I hope they come to see her adoption as just that. Just another fact about Maeve.

But it’s not a context for which all things Maeve must be defined or a filter through which all things Maeve must be viewed. After all, she’s just one of the kids. She’s … simply … family.

When we finally did calm her and wrestle that diaper off of Maeve, we found a particularly nasty rash — one brought on, we figure, by the frequent use of swim diapers, the sand, the ocean saltwater and the pool chlorine. When I saw her skin broken open and oozing, my heart felt a twinge of guilt as I recalled the moments before when Thomas and I told her she must sit at the table.

Seems sitting was simply too painful. When we immediately put her in a bath in the hopes of soothing her skin — she would only bathe on all fours. That’s how raw her tush was.

Hmpf. Raw. Much like the comment that bruised my heart.

Sure, both will heal. But neither were necessary.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Diapers, Discussing Adoption, Family, Growing up, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Someone else said

Beg your pardon?

Don’t ya just love those conversations with new acquaintances, essential strangers or even friends and family (does that cover the spectrum or what?) that inevitably lead to adoption, which inevitably leads to someone saying something brilliant like: “Well, adoption is just so wonderful. And Maeve is sooo lucky! If we couldn’t have had our own children, we definitely would have adopted.”

Seriously???

There are so many things wrong with that sentiment, I could dissect it seemingly syllable by syllable — like diagramming sentences in sixth grade English — or highlight and mark all its varied bits of ridiculousness while being full of snark and wit, and my undies in a big ol’ bundle.

But ya know what? The very thought of it Just. Exhausts. Me.

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Filed under Adoption, Maeve, Someone else said

Do you see what I see?

Several months ago, my local adoption group hosted musician and adoptee Zara Phillips, who shared her adoption story and performed several songs from her album — quite an interesting evening as I detailed here. This month’s meeting featured as speaker Margaret L. Schwartz, a single adoptive mom from the Washington, D.C., area whose children were born in the Ukraine.

Since Thomas and I are always interested in hearing other folks’ journeys in adoption and believe there’s always something to learn from someone else, we were sure to be there.  With our adoption being domestic, I did expect differences in our stories and experiences. What I didn’t expect was learning a lesson about myself.

She’s written a book, The Pumpkin Patch: A Single Woman’s International Adoption Journey, and for this meeting in the building’s cozy library, she sat among the attendees, comfortable in our wing chairs and loveseats, and shared her story.

I sat, pen and paper in hand (perhaps it’s the journalist in me, sitting in a newsroom five days a week has its influence, after all) ready to travel alongside her in the journey to Ukraine and parenthood. Within moments, though, my heart skipped and sputtered, and I gently put my pen down. I found myself disappointed and thinking, I would have little to learn here, thankyouverymuch.

What on earth had she said that had me so bothered? That she had selected the Ukraine because she wanted her children to look as much like her as possible.

Ack.

Anyone who knows me could imagine my grimacing at such a statement. Even as a very young adult, when I thought about adoption and how it seemed natural it would fit into my life one day, I imagined traveling to a world far from mine, welcoming into my family a child that needed a loving home. And, looking back now at those daydreams, I realize that child never looked at all like me. Their skin was darker, their hair was textured in ways I’d never known. This is what felt right to me. I don’t know the impetus for such imaginations about how I imagined adoption in my life, but this is the truth of it.

In researching adoption and selecting our agency, Thomas and I never discussed the need for a child to resemble us. It just wasn’t even a blip on our radar. In fact, my husband, who was adopted into an all-white family, is bi-racial (or is thought to be based on the little known about his birthparents) and nothing ever seemed to matter of it to anyone. He’s lucky that way, we’ve since learned in our years together.

Turns out, we also would adopt a child that is bi-racial. I know, as I write this, what someone might glean from that: Since he’s bi-racial, we chose similarly so our future child would resemble him. That actually couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s even funny because, although they both have curly hair and skin tones shades darker than mine (not so hard to do, by the way) that’s about where the resemblance between Thomas and Maeve stops. His hair is much, much darker, hers is lighter. His curls are loose, hers are tight spirals. Her eyes are big and round and brown and his are green and, because of the uniqueness of their shape, many people ask him if he is part Pacific-Islander. The differences go on.

After knowing Thomas, whose adoption was domestic and closed, we agreed open adoption was best for us, which put us squarely at a domestic adoption. We came to selecting a “non-white program,” if you will, because our research led us to the understanding that many more prospective parents were seeking caucasian children rather than those with bi-racial or full African-American backgrounds. We felt children in the caucasian programs would then certainly have homes and families and, since skin color meant so very little to us, we selected a program that offered various ethnicities. After all, for us, people looking similar does not necessarily a family make.

As I listened to Schwartz, I found myself running a dialogue in my mind that began with, “What! Did she just say she needed her children to look like her and that she specifically sought out a country that could provide that?” She detailed her fears and concerns in adoption and the need to adopt within what she called her comfort zone. This included declining the first child she met.

Before the night’s end, I began to realize that as fervently as I share among the inquisitive people I encounter that open adoption works for me and for my family, her message is as valid to her. Although our viewpoints differ, I needed to be as open to hearing this adoptive mother’s story as I’d hope she’d be to hearing mine. Open. Receptive. Respectful.

After all, her wanting to adopt a child similar to her did not invalidate my own family and its multi-hues.

The lesson I’m making (and taking) from my evening with Schwartz is one of tolerance, patience and understanding in the complex world of adoption — actually, in this complex world, period. Lessons I plan to teach my daughter. After all, part of growing in life is being open to others’ viewpoints, perspectives and experiences — especially when they differ from our own. Not only do we learn about each other, we learn about ourselves. A simple lesson, really, but one I needed reminding of.

So, duly noted.

(And next month’s meeting topic: A reunited birthmother from San Diego will address our NJ group on “Why Can’t My Son’s Two Mothers Share Him Now?” As an adoptive mom touched by both open and closed adoptions, this promises to be fascinating!)

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Family, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Someone else said, Still learning

Love Thursday

So today for Love Thursday I was planning to post a picture of how my dear Maevey Gravy looked as she went to her little school yesterday morning.

But the ‘conversation’ she and I had this morning as I changed her diaper trumped even the most wonderful of images, which I’ll share another time. I’m letting her words speak for themselves, sans photo.

As I changed and dressed her, I began asking her what sounds animals make. Maeve, what does a lion say? From elephants, cheetahs and sheep to bumblebees, monkeys, kitty cats and snakes — she nailed them all, and sometimes with animation so perfect, National Geographic or Animal Kingdom just might have to do a double-take.

(I’ve always said the girl is a genius, thankyouverymuch.)

So then I asked her: Maeve, what sound does mommy make?

She looked me dead in the eye, clutched her little paws together, brought them tight to her body, and said:

“I … wuv … wu!”

‘Nuf said.

Happy Love Thursday!
For more images and expressions of love, visit Love Is All Around and Love Thursday: Love is All Around Us.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Curls, Diapers, Family, Love, Love Thursday, Maeve, mamagigi, Parenting, Relationships, Someone else said