Today I'm participating in an awesome blogging opportunity called "The Adoption Blogger Interview Project." It's a great blog feature for those who are "Open Adoption Bloggers" through the incredible Production Not Reproduction website. I submitted my request to be a part of this, and specifically requested to be matched with a birthmother. The reason? As a PAP (which I've learned stands for Prospective Adoptive Parent), I really wanted to get a better understanding of the perspective of a birthmother. Hopefully, someday soon, we will be matched with a woman making an adoption plan, and when that happens I want to be fully receptive and empthatetic in every way I can.
I was matched with a wonderful birthmother (blogger name: Racilous) who has since become a blogger friend, over at Adoption in the City. Her thoughtful reflections on open adoption, her honesty and openness about her emotions and unflinching gaze upon her past choices make it a must read.
We emailed and exchanged questions. Here are my questions for her. You can find her questions for me here: http://racilous.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/adoption-interview-project-colleen-from-ranunculus-adventure/
1. What are your feelings in general about prospective adoptive parents (PAP)? What do you wish that they knew before going into the process?
Honestly, PAP are sort of scary to me. First, PAP tend to be newbies in adoption, and I think everyone has a learning curve when it comes to adoption and realizing that what they have come to believe from pop culture isn't always realistic. So for instance, they may use terminology that tends to be the norm but which I find coercive or at times annoying. A simple example is calling an expectant mother who goes to an adoption agency a birth mother even though she hasn't signed away any rights (Dear Birth Mother letters drive me a little nuts). Another is calling your child's (or prospective child's) mother "my birthmother" I'm not old enough to be M&P's (the adoptive parents) birthmom and would appreciate not being called that. But the truth is the first few months of being in the adoption world I said things that now would drive me crazy now, so it isn't that I assume PAPs are bad, just new to the game.
But the other hard part is there are also some PAPs (and truthfully APs as well) who take an extremely entitled stance. The truth is I don't believe any PAP was more deserving of being a parent than I was, so if I had chose to parent it would have been a good thing for my son and I. I think PAPs want a family so bad that some of them overlook what adoption actually means for this child. Too often I hear only the stereotype of what a birth mom is from PAPs and how they don't deserve to parent - I have met way more birth moms who would have been amazing parents than I have met birth moms who shouldn't have parented.
I guess I wish PAPs understood that adoption is not just a happy thing, the child who gains an adoptive family has in many ways lost a birth family, and realizing there is a loss for the birth family and adoptee I think is important and hard to do. The other thing I would want them to know is that openness is not for birth parents - in my opinion it doesn't lessen the grief, it just changes it - rather it's for the adoptees. I think at it's base openness should be about the parents (all four of them) putting their feelings aside so the kids are allowed to care about all parts of their family without feeling they are choosing one set of parents over another. I believe if PAPs really try to understand that then they will enter openness honestly and make the best effort to really keep any promises they make.
2. Tell me about your relationship with your son. What things would you change, if any, and what things are unique to your relationship that no one else in the world has?
Right now I think our relationship is in a good place, I think he's starting to really remember me and know me, and that's pretty awesome. I do wish we had some time alone, the way visits usually go we don't ever spend any time alone so it hasn't been just us since we were at the hospital together.
You ask what's unique, well for me I see in my son this independent streak that I had my whole life. My son tends to do his own thing - he is around little boys who love trucks and yet J (her son) loves animals, especially farm animals. He hates sweets and even if he's around a big group of kids who are eating cake he has no interest. I don't think he will do much in his life because it's what he's supposed to do or what someone else wants him to do and I do think he got at least some of that from me. Having those personality connects are pretty great to watch and I think the fact I can see that in him makes our relationship pretty unique.
3. Your post on the mood rings really impacted and touched me. What would you say are the blackest (darkest) and the yellow-est (not a word, but happiest) times for a birthmother, and a part of open adoption?
For me the darkest are when I realize what I missed. It's the seeing my son and realizing he started crawling or walking or talking and that I didn't even know it happened. Seeing him growing up is seeing him grow away from the kid I held in the hospital, feeling that distance is so super hard. At the same time, I love seeing him grow up into this perfect combination of his four parents and a splash of his own unique self. Seeing him become this amazing little boy, even if it's a different little boy than the baby I held at the hospital, has been absolutely wonderful. It's what makes the grief that much harder, knowing I can't just grieve not having my son because if I was parenting my son the J I know today wouldn't exist.
4. Obviously you have experienced highs and lows as a birthmother. Knowing what you know now, would you recommend open adoption? Would you ever choose adoption, now that you have seen it from all sides? If adoption is the only option, then I definitely recommend open adoption over closed. I think it's so much better for the adoptee to never have to choose any family over any other, but rather have the freedom to form the relationships with all family as they see fit. I also believe from a birth mother perspective, as difficult as openness can be at times, it is always worth it for those perfect moments.
That being said, I do believe if a woman can parent, she should (or if a man can parent he should). I sort of take the notion that if a woman can be talked out of adoption than she should parent because if she doesn't she will most likely live with regret. As hard as it is to know prior to placement that your child's life might not be better, that they may always feel something is missing, that the adoptive parents could close the door on openness, I think it's imperative that every expectant mom and dad hears the hard truth so they can make an informed decision that they will be able to stand behind in 10, 20, 40 years.
As far as I'm concerned, I definitely didn't understand that no matter what my intentions were my son was going to feel whatever he felt and that it might be negative feelings towards me or towards being adopted. That is hard to stomach especially when you were told as soon as you mentioned adoption that it was the loving option, it was the best thing for my child, etc. I wish I understood then what I do now. That being said, knowing what I do now, there still isn't some magic wand that would have changed my circumstances. I didn't feel like I had a choice then and in hindsight I still don't feel like I had any choice.
5. In your "Obsessing Begins" blog, you talk about balancing the life that you have with a relationship and events that involve your son. What advice could you offer adoptive parents and birth parents about juggling family, friends, work and your child's family?
I have spoken with people a lot about this and everyone is different. In families where the birth family has other children it is complicated because you have to be good parents to the kids your parenting as well, and that is a more complicated balancing act I haven't had to face yet. There also can be complications in adoptive families if there are multiple kids from different birth families and you're trying to balance different relationships, and that is another perspective I haven't encountered in my son's adoption. We are also local to each other so in perspective we have it pretty easy.
That being said, I personally make choices in my life as to what is best for my son. He is my priority. It might have to be different if I had more children but I have a hard time not prioritizing him to some degree. But I also realize that as important as he is, I don't want him to ever think I let our relationship hold me back. If I got the perfect job opportunity far away, I would still work hard at our relationship but would do it from far away. Having my son know I'm a better person because he is in my life is important to me to. For me this kind of choice is like any other parents make everyday - take a promotion for a job you hate or get a lower paying job you love - which is a better situation for your kid to see? For one family the money might be the determining factor, for another family being a good example to your kids is more important. In both cases it needs to come down to what is best for your family. The key in open adoption is I think of my son's adoptive parents as part of my extended family. I hope they view me the same way which means the impact to my relationship with J would have a factor in their decision making process, even if its not the biggest factor.
6. Hurricane Sandy - how were you impacted? Any inside thoughts to share on how things are in NYC?
Hurricane Sandy was really bad for parts of the City, but wasn't that bad in my part of the city. I luckily never lost power and had no flooding. Many of my friends were not so lucky. Since then it's still been tough, I've had to walk an hour + to work and then home at night although this coming week is looking better since the trains are up and running. It's hard to feel frustrated about wanting things to be back to normal when people are so far from normal and are grateful to just be alive. And yet, it will be a frustrating trip to get back to a more normal time in the city. I do feel lucky that both me and J's family were barely impacted.
7. "Open adoption, at it’s best, is a living breathing relationship, one that grows and changes, one that evolves." These thoughts are so wonderful and deep that I just took a moment to take them in. As a living breathing relationship, what would you suggest adoptive parents can do to nurture that relationship with a birthparent?
Personally, I think adoptive parents really need to put themselves on the line to stretch the relationship. I know it may seem unfair to put the stretching on them, but coming from a birth parent perspective it's the adoptive parents that have all the power. It's incredibly scary to ask for anything because the fear that the adoptive parents will pull back or close the adoption is overwhelming - even today after two plus years of building this relationship I still have flashes of complete terror that my son's parents are able to walk away and I don't have any recourse. So I do think as far as actually evolving the relationship a lot of that does fall to the adoptive parents. My son's parents have done things like have sit downs with me (and without J around) to talk through adoption and how they were going to be speaking to J about it or what direction we see things going in going forward, they invited me to family events, they asked me to make his Halloween costume, they have sent more pictures, more updates, had more visits than we had initially talked about. And even when I overstepped, they were gracious about saying no, they did it in a way where I knew that it was okay to ask for something and if they weren't comfortable that wouldn't make irreparable changes to our relationship.
8. Do you have an regrets about having an adoption blog? What have been the best things to come out of your openness, and the worst? What are you favorite adoption and non-adoption blogs?
I have met so many amazing people through my blog, and especially in the beginning I was desperate to not feel alone in this and it was only because I blogged and met people through my blog that I can say I stopped feeling alone so alone. There is no replacement for that, it is only through those I've met through my blog that I've made it through the last two years intact.
But the fact this story is not just my story but the story about my son, his adoptive parents, my family, JD and I chose to put it out there for anyone to read is something I worry about quite a bit. I try to represent everyone involved in my story in a way that is fair and that I would be okay with them reading, but that doesn't mean I've told any of them that I actually blog. I don't worry as much about the actual tone, I feel like in general what I share about my feelings on situations is the same as the way I represent those feelings to the people actually involved, but I do wonder if they would be okay with how much I share. I also worry if my son's parents especially started reading my blog that some of my neurotic tendencies to obsess about things would change how they look at me. I do think I do a relatively good job of keeping up appearances when I'm around them, and I save my sort of freaking out for on my blog. I guess I wish I had a way to make the same connections on the internet without blogging, but I don't think that is possible.
As far as who I read - I actually don't really read any non-adoption blogs - the only exposure to the blogging world has been almost exclusively through adoption blogging. I have never done a blog roll because there are so many people who I think have such important things to say that I have a hard time coming up with a list. But there are a couple blogs I love because they are based in personal anecdotes, so if I'm going to narrow down to a few I would include Endure for a Night, Chronicles of Munchkinland, Mother Issues, Insert Bad Movie Title, Living Through Today, and Love Is Not a Pie and I love Open Adoption Bloggers. I seriously am probably missing some of the most important reads I have but these are the first to mind.
To learn more about the open adoption interview project, follow the links below!
To learn more about the open adoption interview project, follow the links below!