Category Archives: Still learning

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

(Not) Ready for takeoff

Maeve and I leave the East Coast in two days to visit my sister (her beloved Aunt Kiki) and family, including my beloved nephew Dashiell.

In Arizona.

I’m uber-excited since I’ve never been there and haven’t seen them since they moved earlier this summer.

But I’m also afraid. Very afraid. This is Maeve’s first plane ride and since Thomas is staying back at home, I’m doing this on my own. The flight is 5 hours, 45 minutes, and that’s not accounting for any thumb-twiddling on the famously belated-in-its-takeoffs-Newark-airport tarmac.

Anyone who’s learned she and I are flying this week has said something akin to, “Well, of course you’re flying at night, right? So she’ll sleep?”

Well, um … no.

When I booked the jaunt, I just wanted to be sure we arrived in enough time that we still had the better part of a day there. Didn’t even consider the fact that our morning flight will find Maeve rested and raring to go for the day. Rookie mistake, indeed.

I’m trying to think of every trick in the book (where can I get my hands on that book, anyway?) to keep Maeve entertained, but I’m worried that the number of hours on the plane, the number of feet within which we are required to remain, and the number of years in her age just don’t make for a pretty equation. Granted, I was an English major, but that’s some math I think I can figure out.

Here’s what I am doing so far, though:

  • Bringing the umbrella stroller for easy maneuvering through the huge airport, to be left right outside the plane door for the flight attendants to stow away and then retrieve when we arrive; (especially since I’m also lugging along the carseat — but checking it — so we have one in Arizona).
  • I booked, at someone’s suggestion, the aisle seat and the window seat, with the chance that someone might not purchase the middle seat. If it remains open, we’ve got some more elbow room. Yay! If a solo flyer does snatch it up, obviously we’ll shift around and let him or her (good luck to them, whoever they are!) sit where they want in our row.
  • Bringing my laptop on board with a handful of newly purchased DVDs — Laurie Berkner Band, Elmo, Animal Adventures at the San Diego Zoo — for Maevey Gravy to watch. I can hear the gasps now, I know, I know. Our strict telly-watching rules. Well, they’re bending for the half-dozen hours we’re up in the air, kind of a “After 10,000 feet altitude, all screen-time maximums are, well, ignored, for the sanity of the flying-solo mama, the baby and everyone else.” (Mind you, I’m going to wait as long as possible before cracking open the laptop and sticking a DVD inside. Really. Seriously, I am!)
  • I’ve purchased a couple new children’s books and haven’t shown them to Maeve so they’ll be new for the plane.
  • Bringing crayons and coloring book
  • Snacks (Except for drinks, since I can’t bring anything from home, although I’m told I can buy them after security checkpoints. Right. Me, Maeve, stroller, laptop, carry-on bag of tricks — shopping and paying extraordinarily high prices in the airport shops from a limited selection of more than likely high-sugar drinks is no big deal. Arg.)
  • Someone told me not to get on the plane when they call for passengers with children first since it only extends the time they’re cramped on board. But the idea of banging my way through the aisles, with a toddler, carry-on bag and laptop in tow, all while scores of people worry it’s the seat next to them that I’m coming toward, just doesn’t appeal to me.

And …. that’s all I’ve got. So, help a nervous mama, would ya? Throw me some suggestions, ideas, words of wisdom, tricks of the parenting trade. And no, please don’t suggest flying at night. I’ve heard that one 17 times already.

And if you’re scheduled on my flight, please be nice. And patient. Maeve and I are good people, really. Really, we are.

(Oh no! I just thought about the ear-popping. What if that freaks her out? How do I explain that?)

Ack.

Who knows, maybe I’m worrying for nothing. I mean, why wouldn’t a two year old want to sit still for almost six hours in a confined space with tons of strangers surrounding us?

Silly me.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Children's books, Family, Firsts, Maeve, Parenting, 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

Gathering for adoption ethics

This fall, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Ethica will bring together researchers, practitioners, authors and adoption and foster care activists for a conference outside Washington, D.C., on adoption ethics and accountability.

The two-day program in October, “Doing it Right Makes a Lifetime of Difference,” includes near 50 speakers and panel discussions and workshops on myriad issues, including accountability to birthfamilies,  children and adult adoptees; ethical relinquishments; ensuring ongoing relationships; transracial adoption; records searches; industry regulation; best practices; discrimination; supporting adopted children and more.

Check out the complete conference, hotel and program reservation details here.

This is the second ethics conference hosted by the Institute. Although it’s in Arlington, Va., about four hours from me, I’m very intrigued. Anyone been before? Anyone interested in or planning to attend?

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Adoption Websites, Birth parents, Discussing Adoption, Legislation, Making a difference, Open Adoption, Parental surrenders, Parenting, Still learning

Hush Money — Er, Honey

The other night my sister and I went out for an impromptu dinner with the kids. Kid-friendly Ruby Tuesdays was the not-so-lucky locale for this outing, as my sister’s son Dashiell loves the salad bar and she likes the vegetarian options.

Maeve, however, wasn’t having it at all. It began as soon as I took her out of her carseat. She didn’t want to leave the side of the car, her feet planted firmly on the pavement, her top half swaying toward me as I took her hand and tried to walk forward.

Shoulda been a clue.

As I attempted to place her in her highchair, all toddler hellfire broke loose. This wasn’t a meltdown — it was more like self-combustion. Absolute hysterics, I tell you. In fact, I’m sure she was way past the point of even knowing what she was crying about.

As Dashiell was trying to talk over her to show me something about the maze on the kids’ menu, and my sister and I were trying to calm her down, the waiter approached and introduced himself. All I heard was “person,” “serving,” “today.” Lucky him.

We couldn’t hear him over the babyshrill let alone concentrate on what we’d order, so we (loudly) requested more time. By now I was thinking we might just need to go. Pitying those around us and not wanting to ruin their evening, I was about to suggest this change of plans when my sister headed off to the salad bar to grab some finger food to console the wild beast. (I say this with love, folks, so no nasty e-mails, please.)

Meanwhile, I remembered I had pink bunny cookies in my purse — don’t ask, I’ve also got six CDs, a yo-yo that lights up, a flattened granola bar or two, a lint brush, a plastic egg holding a red bouncy ball, my family’s fortune in loose coins, three ballpoint pens that don’t work, about a half-dozen wrapped tampons floating loose all willy-nilly, a bottle of generic Tylenol, a diaper, an envelope of horse-sized Advil gelcaps from my latest dentist visit, a pair of Maeve’s socks rolled into a ball, a red Sharpie marker, a booklet of kiddie ride tickets for this summer at the boardwalk, and Sandra Boynton’s Hey Wake Up book — and so I simultaneously broke every good parenting rule and handed her the cookies as a peace (and quiet) offering. Hush money, if you will. Just … make … the … screaming … stop.

Between the cookies and the snacks my sister brought back from the salad bar, Maeve calmed down. (Although the fiery look in her eyes had us fearful her head would spin again at any moment.)

Problem is, we began to think we were added to some sort of Ruby’s Watch List. In fact, we’re pretty sure there now are sketches of us taped up in back. You see, we hadn’t ordered yet, which means Maeve ate seven stolen grapes and five stolen raisins. My 21-month-old could very well have a permanent record.

While we waited for the server so we could place our order (which included salad bars, folks), the hostess hovered near our table, pretending to be checking out Something Very Important somewhere very close to the little plate in front of Maeve. Good at playing hostess, not so good at playing detective.

As my sister and I debated if we were just being paranoid, our dinner arrived and it was the manager who delivered it. He questioned if he was “missing food for the kids.” Now absolutely sure we were the latest denizens on Ruby’s Watch List, we pointed out that both kids were eating the salad bar. He smiled something short of an actual smile and left. Moments later he was talking to Detective Hostess.

As soon as we could get our waiter’s attention, we explained that it seemed folks were worried we’d ordered for the kids and we wanted to confirm with him that he had, in fact, heard us order the salad bar for both of them. He seemed confused, agreed we’d ordered for them, and claimed he didn’t know of anything amiss.

Before too long, Detective Hostess, Manager Man and our waiter were talking in a restaurant huddle.

Weird.

Before we left the not-so-relaxing dinner, I headed to the ladies room. My sister had both kids at the table and before I’d even exited the stall, I heard their voices in the bathroom. I actually wondered if something had happened back at the table related to the Grapes Security Breach, but it turns out Dash just needed the restroom.

As we waited, she and I reminded one another that the next time we get the bright idea for an impromptu Girls’ Night Out with the kids, one of us should shoot the other first as that would be less painful. 

As we laughed, he suddenly bellowed, “Get!Her!Out!Of!Here!” We looked over, and all we could see was Maeve’s tush as she was squeezing herself under the door to his stall like she was a limbo finalist.

“Da-shiell!” she cooed and giggled, happy to have found him in this self-created game of hide-n-seek.

“Mo-om!” he yelled, flustered and embarrassed.

Rrrrright. Time to go.

On the drive home, both of us exhausted, we wondered aloud if our husbands could have done better. We assured ourselves they couldn’t — ahem, ahem — and vowed that one day soon we’d suggest they take the kids out for some good father-child-brother-in-law-cousin bonding time.

And we’d head out for a mani and pedi. Yes, that sounded nice.

But by the time we pulled into my driveway, our plan morphed instead into an Evening of Espionage as we agreed we should instead trail the guys and watch from afar — as part of “Operation Can They Leave Less Food on the Floor And Avoid The Ruby Tuesdays’ Sketch Artists?”

Now that’s a Girls’ Night Out.

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Filed under Children, Family, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Parenting, Still learning

Passing adoption’s pop quiz

Em over at Letters to a Birthmother found herself in a quandary recently as her nephew, while looking at photos of her son’s first mother, expressed confusion at the notion of two mothers for a child.

She froze up, and began worrying that if she didn’t know how to answer her nephew’s questions, how would she ever adequately discuss it all with her son, the one who would need these answers most of all?

I so understand.

I think every adoptive parent committed to openness and sharing understands. She asked for advice, and I happened to stumble onto her post before anyone else had chimed in. Funny thing is, in reaching out to her, I quite possibly may have authored the longest comment ever (any bloggerville awards for that?). Obnoxiously long, actually. I simply was on a roll and wanted her to feel better in knowing we’re all human, we’re all doing the best we can and we’re all in a similar boat. In fact, while I was writing my novella, furiously typing because she struck such a chord with me, the always insighful Jenna managed to get in a perfectly sensible, well-written and far more appropriately sized comment essentially expressing my sentiments before I could even hit send. That’s how long I was type, type, typing away. Yeesh.

Anyway, as I expressed at the end of my discourse over there, it seems good fodder for mamagigi-land and I want to take up here the matter of handling unexpected yet pointed questions on open adoption and all its workings. It can be hard enough to explain to an adult — but throw in an innocent question from a child and, well, all sorts of tizziness can set in, especially when you realize your own child will be asking soon enough.

It is hard, isn’t it? When we have the luxury of time to consider future questions and conversations, these things play out quite differently in our imagination. Like a well-scripted movie or television program, the right, poignant, memorable words and thoughtful facial expressions fall into place.

But what about when we’re about to order pancakes and hash browns or we’re strolling the aisles of Target? And if the pop quiz on open adoption comes from loved ones we so dearly want to just “get” it, well, it’s darn easy to panic a bit.

I’ve been trying to consider each of these why-are-they-looking-at-me-like-I-have-two-heads moments as a test run, as a good thing. Case in point:

My six-year-old nephew, whose mom (my sister) has explained adoption to him numerous times since Maeve came into our lives, has seemed on each occasion to understand both the general idea of adoption and ours specifically. But every once in a while, he asks a new question.

A month or so ago I was in the store with him when out of the blue he asked me if Maeve would ever leave us to go live with her real mom. I froze. After all, I’d never imagined these conversations with him or Maeve taking place in an aisle at Target. In my mind, these delicate topics and intricate stories were lovingly detailed while nestled on my couch, fire crackling before us, my arms wrapped around the inquisitive child.

Instead, over a red plastic and metal shopping cart, I explained a couple points as slowly and gently (more for my good than his) as I could. First, I am Maeve’s mom and she will live with me, Aunt Gigi, and Uncle Tom until she is all grown up. I explained that he didn’t have to worry that she would leave us. Then I explained that he was right — that Maeve has another mom. While I’m the mom who loves her in person all the time, her other mom also loves her all the time but doesn’t live close enough to see her every day. I explained that when she carried Maeve in her tummy and went to the hospital to have her, she had thought long and hard about taking care of baby Maeve until she grew up and decided she just couldn’t take care of her the way she wanted her to be taken care of. And so, I explained to him, even though it was very sad for her, she looked for people who would love Maeve as much as she did. And, I asked, weren’t we so lucky she found us?

I let that sit a moment or two and then said, as if I were letting him in on a secret, “Actually, if you think about it, it’s pretty cool Maeve has so many people who love her, don’t you think?” He listened, he nodded. I could tell he was absorbing, processing.

A few moments later, when I had his attention again, I told him we have photos of Maeve’s other mom at home. He looked puzzled. “Where?” he asked, as if it was impossible he hadn’t already noticed them. I explained that Maeve has a little photo album just the right size for hands that has lots of pictures of her other mom, and some of her other mom’s family, and photos of Maeve with them while we visited in a park one day. I told him the book was with all her other favorite books she keeps in a basket in the living room. When I asked if he wanted to see them, I wasn’t surprised he said yes.

By the time we arrived at my home that afternoon, his six-year-old energetic self wasn’t thinking about it anymore. And I could have let it go. Instead, I asked if he still wanted to see photos of Maeve’s other mom. He did, and so we nestled and looked, page by page. When we finished, I told him that anytime he wants to know more, he should just ask me.

And then he ran off to play with whatever treasure Target had bestowed on him. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, he was satisfied — for now — and ran off to play. My panic had been mostly for naught. He wasn’t expecting a perfectly worded presentation on the matter. Just a few answers to the questions that popped up in his mind.

Of course it’s tremendously important to me that my nephew and others in our life fully understand and respect our situation. But in the end, it’s the moments shared with an inquisitive Maeve that truly matter. It’s her questions I need to prepare for. So I try to be thankful for the little zingers from random folks or unexpected questions from loved ones and consider them lessons and learning curves for the critical conversations with Maeve.

I had a eureka moment early on, actually, in how to share my belief in adoption openness with the less-convinced around me. Initially — before we were even placed with Maevey Gravy — I found myself unsure how others would react to my wanting openness with our future child’s birth mother. So, as even some of my closest family members expressed doubts at such an arrangement I found I was only hinting at the idea of openness. Being wishy-washy. Separating myself from it, even slightly. Kind of sticking my toe in unknown and possibly very cold waters.

But very quickly that didn’t feel right. It was like I was cheating the lot of us — me and Thomas as adoptive parents, our future child and what I wanted for him or her, and that child’s first family. I wasn’t being fair to us — ultimately, the only ones who really mattered in our story.

A side effect of this hinting or doling out information in bits I thought those around me might be more able to accept, was that I was actually providing them “cracks” in my story. Cracks or “loopholes” in which they rested their worries and comforted themselves that perhaps these are just thoughts and ideas — trial balloons, really — and Gretchen would likely come to her senses soon enough.

That’s when I realized I was letting an irrational fear interfere with some of the most important relationships I would have in my life. So I let go, deciding my family and friends loved me enough and would love my future child enough that they would have to sort it out for themselves. That, like it or not, this is what Thomas and I believe — wholeheartedly — is best for our future family.

So from then on, when I discussed our impending adoption and the openness we sought, I embraced the truth of it all and told it as it was. I didn’t look to ruffle feathers or furrow brows and never discussed this approach for the sake of being “radical.” I took into consideration those I cared about, of course, but ultimately I had to consider our future child first.

And, funny thing — the sky didn’t fall. In fact, an incredible burden was lifted from my shoulders. When I told it as it was, an established fact in our lives, people listened. No one jumped from their seats, enlightened and moved beyond words. Of course not. In fact, I’m doubtful anyone ever was convinced in that very moment. Or is yet, for that matter. But they listened because I was really talking. There could be no doubt in my voice, its intonations, my body language, that I had made a choice and was committed to living it. And when folks asked skeptical questions I tried to answer clearly, honestly and completely — not editing myself for others’ sake. And with every conversation, it felt right. I took them as they came, explained why we believed an open adoption was a good thing and tried to fully respond to questions about a child confused by two mothers, or whether a birthmother would interfere when she disagreed with our parenting. I tried to answer these things to the best of my ability.

Sometimes it meant keeping it simple: ALL children who are adopted (assuming they know of the adoption, of course) WILL have questions. Period. So, I’d continue, why not have answers? Answers inevitably are better than questions, questions that forever linger.

The full story was now theirs to process.

(I’d also try to share with them — even if just a tidbit — a gentle moment or a few words from her birthmother, or even relay a heartwarming look on her birthmother’s face. It seems I needed to remind them that Maeve’s birth mom is a human being with a heart and soul and feelings and loss like anyone else. Absurd? Yes. But true nonetheless. I’m always wanting others to consider Maeve’s first mother, all first mothers, really. I’d like to think that people entertaining doubts about us connecting with her birthmother can look at their own love for Maeve and through that tangible example, see past their fear and simply want the best for Maeve’s other mother too.)

I also hope that as time passes and our family’s openness proves successful, today’s doubters may become tomorrow’s believers. At the very least, they must process their views and make sense of inequities.

Time for an admission: Sometimes, in my weakest moments, I try to take those anxiety-inducing voices of skepticism or confusion and (nicely) use them as motivation to remain committed for the long haul — in a sense, to prove them wrong. No, of course it’s not about them. It’s about Maeve. But I try to use the naysayers to our family’s advantage, rather than let it become a debilitating disadvantage, by reminding myself that working on openness will shed light for these folks, as well as reap rewards for Maeve.

Rewards she so richly deserves.

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