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Being An Adoptive Parent Doesn’t Make You An Expert

Scrolling through facebook this morning I can across a link to an article written by an adoptive mother who has become a full time adoption advocate. She seems to base her entire education and advocacy platform based on her own limited experience and myth.

I was just going to roll my eyes and move on, but then I read that adoption isn’t just a gain for the adoptive parents, the, “child benefits from being adopted as much as or more than the parents who adopt him or her.”

Wow way to gloss over all the loss children experience in order to be adopted. I hope an adoptee (or two or ELEVENTY BILLION) push back against that statement. I don’t feel equipped enough to do so. I will however tackle some of her assertions about relinquishing mothers.

With no citation or reference to how she “knows” she asserts as fact that money does not motivate mothers to relinquish. That we, “Lack important resources that could provide a healthy and loving home for the child, like social skills, safety, emotional support and stability.”

Nope, I only thing I lacked that led me to consider adoption was money. While working in adoption the only thing that delegates many of my clients from potential adoptive parents was money. A majority of the other mothers I know who have relinquished state they were led to consider relinquishment because of money.

After considering adoption and contacting agencies or facilitators some moms were led to believe lacked more than money, however that’s what happens after you spend some time speaking with a coercive entity. You begin to doubt your abilities to your very core.

She goes on to justify the amount charged for adoption by saying. “part of the money that is spent in adoption goes to counseling services for the birth mother (and sometimes birth father), ensuring that the birth mother is making the best decision possible for the baby, that she learns how to communicate with adoptive parents effectively, and that she knows the sort of emotional roller coaster to expect after she gives birth.”

Nope. In some rare cases agencies provide true counseling to expectant parents before during and after relinquishment. Too often, however, they instead label their services as counseling when it is neither unbiased nor offered by a trained professional.

Adoption professionals all too often are adoptive parents who decide to open an agency or facilitation service. They hire other adoptive parents few of whom have been educated as social workers, counselors, therapists, or any other helping profession. Also common is for the same pseudo professional to be assigned to work with potential adoptive parents and expectant parents considering relinquishment creating a huge unethical conflict of interest.

As a way to justify adoption fundraising she later asserts that, “Private adoptions create the best avenue of supporting birth parents, but the cost can range from $12,000 to $30,000+.”

Nope. Private adoption, that is adoption using an attorney after meeting an expectant mother or couple independent, tends to include the fewest services to relinquishing parents with an extremely high possibility of unethical behavior. It’s also illegal in many states. Agency adoption and foster adoption provide more services to birth parents, but only if done through an ethical entity. Too few ethical entities exist.

I personally received nothing that could even remotely be considered counseling. I received a few emails and even fewer telephone conversations before legal paperwork arrived in the mail. I never met the facilitator/”counselor” in person, didn’t have my own lawyer and only met the adoptive parents lawyer when he brought relinquishment papers for me to sign. In the hospital. While I was medicates. After an emergency c-section.

NEVER was post relinquishment discussed. No information about logistics of maintaining communication in our open adoption and none about the emotional rollercoaster. I have no idea what my son’s parents paid to adopt him, but I hope they weren’t under the impression that ANY of that went to provide services to me, because if so they were lied to.

Adoption needs reform. Which means we need more trained professionals who are educated about adoption realities and fewer adoptive parents who quit their day jobs to spout myths.

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They’re killing our kids.

Is there nothing to be done?

Just screaming into a pillow as the tears fall.

I’m not surprised not even a little.

But I really didn’t want to be right.

Not this time, not last time or the time before or the one that comes next.

I don’t want to feel relief that my son looks white

…but i do.

Without A Map

There’s no roadmap for open adoption. We’re all just figuring it out as we go. But for spouses/partners/significant others of birth parents (and adoptees) the course is even less clear, which is why it’s all the more impressive that TeacherMan is such a freaking rock star this weekend.

He met Kidlet and M a year ago on our turf. Then six months ago Kidlet came to visit us. However, this weekend we’re in their state, for their event, surrounded by their extended family. TeacherMan is taking it all in stride and being super attentive to any possible emotional needs I could possibly have.

He’s a good guy this husband of mine and I’m such a lucky girl.

What’s This Really About?

I ask myself as I crouch down on my sister in law’s porch. Trying to wipe away the tears that are coming way too fast for it to be about the lack of competence of such a trivial skill.

Biting back accusations instead of hurling them at my husband is a step in the right direction, but why am I even thinking them? Is he happy I failed? Will he get joy from my embarrassment? Where is this coming from? What’s this really about?

Dark thoughts swirl in my brain. I believe myself when I swear these types of thoughts don’t exist. They’ve been gone long enough it’s like they never were here. And then they’re back and make no sense. Where’s they come from? What’s this really about?

I suppose it’s just another reminder I’m broken. A warning not to get too comfortable. I’ll always be dark and twisty. Incompetent. Incapable. That’s what it’s really about.

August 13 2001

In August of 2001 I was pregnant. My sister was out of town leaving her car with me. The morning of the 13th started out pretty unremarkable. I stopped and checked my sister’s mail the headed to the clinic for my check up.

After waiting for the typical forever a nurse took my vitals and showed me to an exam room where I waited to be seen by a random OBGYN. I never saw the same doctor, but it didn’t really matter since they all treated me with the same indifference. Ah the joys of a military hospital.

The doc du jour did a quick exam and left the room speaking only a handful of words if any at all. I took that as my cue to leave.

As I walked away from the clinic the nurse who’d taken my vitals stopped me. Apparently the doctor wanted me to go to report to Labor & Delivery.

Once again the staff barely spoke to me. I had no idea why I was there. They connected me to some machines and drew the curtain around my bed.

On the other side of the curtain was another pregnant 18 year old. Only she was married to a soldier while I was the unmarried daughter of one. Perhaps this is why the staff actually explained their procedures to her, answered her questions, and generally treated her like a human being.

I called my father at some point and he came down for awhile. We were told nothing would be happening for awhile so he went home.

I tried to call the parents I’d chosen for my son but couldn’t from the hospital so I had my mom call from home. (Looking back I’d hashtag this as: Holy no cell phone inconvenience batman)

I also called my boyfriend to let him know where I was.

They hooked me up to pitocin and stripped my membranes (broke my water) at least twice. Sometime after 11 that night more phone calls were made to assemble the troops. It was time to start pushing.

And that is how I ended August 13, 2001. Alone behind a curtain scared, in pain, and waiting for my people to join me…

Open Adoption Roundtable #23: Brevity and I Have Never Met

Heather has posted a new Open Adoption Roundtable writing prompt. This time the questions come from O Solo Mama. Some adoption bloggers had already responded to these questions.  I stayed out of it, having been in a place where I don’t feel I have anything particularly wise or helpful to add to the discussion. However, as I’m trying to pull myself from that place I will attempt to weigh in on these questions.

1. If open adoption is so great, why do so many people suck at it? By this I mean, not honouring commitments, closing the adoption, telling the other family they’re not “doing this thing” correctly or playing the “for the sake of the child” card?

Short Answer: People “suck” at open adoption because of lack of preparation.

Long Answer: Open Adoption is hard.  But more than that, it’s hard and isn’t sold that way.  I don’t know what J&M were told of the complexities of Open Adoption, but I was told next to nothing and NEVER was I told it would be hard.  I think people decide to not honor commitments, close the adoption, etc because they commit to too much at the beginning and it’s overwhelming and emotional.  And when they start to feel it’s hard and emotional and overwhelming when they weren’t told it would be they think, this isn’t working.  This is wrong.  This must stop.

*DISCLAIMER* When I say “too much” whats too much for one person might not be too much for another so in the example I’m about to give it may not have been too much for you, but it would have been for me.

If at the beginning of our adoption we had agreed on frequent (monthly or quarterly; or even annual at that point perhaps) visits I do not think our adoption would be as open as it is now.  I was an emotional wreck in the months following the adoption.  I remember breaking down in tears in one of my college classes because we were discussing/debating the practice of interracial adoption.  I’m a crier by nature, but I tend to be able to restrain my tears until I’m alone.  If the embarrassment of crying in front of an entire class couldn’t keep my tears at bay I would have been a wreck at a visit that early in the adoption.

I can’t speak for J&M, but it would have been enough for me to avoid subsequent visits at least for awhile.  We started with letters and pictures and phone calls.  We got to know each other, built a relationship. We eventually began having visits.  M and I become FB friends.

If I had had FB at the beginning, and if we had been friends on it at the beginning…yeah it probably would have ended with one of us blocking the other or at the very least hurt feelings.  It would be like dating someone new and friending them immediately and all of a sudden you’re privy to their thoughts and feelings (status updates) that you otherwise wouldn’t be and it’s a little weird and overwhelming and you’re not sure how or if to respond to things. It would have been crazy making. (again FOR ME others friend eachother on social networking sites from day one and that is fine for them)

As for playing the, “for the sake of the child” card.  We as adults sometimes over think things and don’t give kids enough credit.  We have a sense of what a “normal” family is ingrained into us.  Depending on our generation, how were were raised, and our own experiences the what constitutes a “normal” family can be more or less inclusive.  If a family that includes birth parents feels abnormal to us we assume it will to our child as well.  That if we as adults are outside of our comfort zone, then the child must be as well and it must be stopped. But, we weren’t born with that feeling.  And neither were our children. A family that includes birth parents can be their normal, and it can become our normal too over time.

2. From the standpoint of first parents, open adoption sounds like something that could prolong suffering. Could this suffering potentially outweigh the good of knowing where your child is? Who helps the first parent? [the following pertains to this question and was in O Solo Mama’s post]…from the perspective of first parents. How do they do it? No seriously, how do you watch your child being parented by someone other than yourself? Do you take some kind of pill every day? Or do you grieve for a long time, so long, even, that it impairs your relationship with your child or with your subsequent chidren? And then who helps you?)

In grad school my thesis equivalent (we didn’t have a thesis option in my program) focused on birth parent grief and loss.  Research shows that birth parents in open adoption do have elevated levels of grief at first, but that over time those in open adoption actually experience less grief later in life. Sorry for the vague-ness of “at first” and “later” but different numbers are popping in my head and I don’t have the energy to get up out of bed to dig for the research.

Personally, I know I cry about the adoption less now that I did even a year ago and a LOT less than I did the first few years. My heart leaps when I see a child about Kidlet’s age with similar coloring. Which I know is ridiculous given that I know not only what Kidlet looks like, but exactly where he is (and it’s in a different state) and I also hold my breath when I see a car with a license plate from Kidlet’s state.  I think both those things would be worse if our adoption wasn’t open, but having not lived that experience I of course cannot say for sure.

It’s hard to watch someone else parent my child, especially if I’d make a different parenting decision. But it helps to see the love in the parenting.  From what I’ve witnessed I do believe J&M love Kidlet as much as I do and that is not something I would be sure of had I not experienced all that I have on visits.

There is no pill to cure ambiguous grief regardless of from where that grief stems.  I think I will grieve forever in different ways, because as different milestones approach there are new things to grieve. I don’t think it impairs my relationship with Kidlet.  When we’re together I’m in the moment and don’t become overwhelmed and emotional until I’m alone in my room at night or out for a walk alone. I dont think my grief will negatively impact my someday children mostly because I am aware of my issues and plan on working on them in therapy prior to having my IUD removed.

Anyone who listens when I’m sad helps me. Anyone who validates instead of dismisses my feelings helps me.  Anyone who loves me despite my birth mother status helps me.  Anyone who isn’t terrified that J&M allow me visits helps me.  Unfortunately those in professional capacities who should be able to help me haven’t been so helpful.

3. I’m guessing kids are not hung up on how many relatives they have. Tell me that the thing that hangs up the public all the time about open adoption and other unconventional relationships—two mommies, two daddies, three, four, parents—is the least of your worries because it seems to me it is.

Again I think this goes back to what has been ingrained in us over time to be the “normal” family make up.

4. Do you ever feel like you should give this child back? Does the thought ever seize you totally as you watch your child with her bio-family: “ooops?” (OR for f-parents: Do you ever feel as though you need to take this child back? That nothing is stopping you beside an agreement that feels false? Does that feeling go away?)

No.

That is not to say that I don’t have my daydreams of what it would be like if Kidlet were with me.  Of what it had been like had I not signed away my rights.  But those what ifs don’t mean I would take him from his family and turn his life upside down.

5. How do children ever cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they see their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? Who helps the child in this situation? Both sets of parents?

I know you aren’t supposed to answer a question  with questions, but…How do children in closed adoptions cope with knowing they could not be kept?  When they imagine their natural parents having more kids, what do they think?  When they search later in life and find they had siblings (full or half) how do they respond?  Who helps the child or adult in those situations?

If Kidlet ever has questions about why he could not be kept I will answer them honestly and age appropriately.  If I have more children (which I hope to do) he will see that I waited until I was stable and able to care for them.  He will know them.  I will do everything I can to not let the parenting of someday kids get in the way of showing Kidlet how much I love him.

6. Can you say comfortably that some surrendering mothers could not cope with an open adoption or do you think that it should always be the standard?

I think Open Adoptions should be the standard.  I think openness is a continuum and not every spot on that continuum is right for each person.  However, a statement like, “some surrendering mother’s could not cope with an open adoption”  feels like an excuse not to offer her one.

7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviours) to close an adoption totally?

No.

Open Adoption RoundTable #16

Heather has once again saved me from doing work and posted the writing prompt for the 16th Open Adoption Roundtable.

Imagine your child as an adult describing their open adoption experience. What do you hope they will be able to say about you? How did you view their other parents? In what ways did you support their relationship with them?

I hope Kidlet will be able to say I am present, available.  That I was/am able and willing to answer any questions he has or discuss any topic with him. I hope he will say I am a good person.  I hope he will see me as family and not think twice about including me in his future life. I hope he will recognize that I’ve only ever said good things about his birth dad.

I hope he will view my interactions with his parents as positive, respectful, and friendly.  That I’ve never done anything to question or deminish their authority and have always looked to them to make the parenting decisions. I hope he’ll see that I’ve also treated his brother with love. I hope that my actions show my belief that even though you can’t choose relatives you can choose family; and his parents and his brother to be a part of who I consider my family.

I hope he’ll look back and see that he was always surrounded by love.