Monday, November 30, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: Birthdays

I've been absent from the "roundtable" discussions as of late, not because of being uninterested in discussing important issues in open adoption, and not because of being unwilling to think through the complexities of such an intricate and unique relationship. It's simply been because of time restraints, and other things being a higher priority than blogging. :)

However, this topic is especially timely for me, as Sassy's second birthday is less than a week away. I really wanted to participate this time, and as life would have it, have been given much more "fuel for the fire" in terms of topics and events to discuss.

In response to two of Thanksgivingmom's questions, most applicable to us:

What do you/your family do to integrate open adoption and birthday celebrations?
We've only been at this thing for two years now, so we really only have one birthday (other than, of course, the day of her birth) under our belt, in the most technical sense. Of course, that will change within the week. Prior to Sassy's first birthday, I emailed FirstMom and asked her if she'd be open to receiving a birthday party invitation (which happened to fall on Sassy's actual birthday that year). She did not respond, and we understood that to mean she just wasn't ready yet. I was disappointed, but accepted that. She sent some very thoughtful gifts in the mail ahead of time so that Sassy could open her presents on her birthday. (She did the same for Christmas a couple weeks later, as a matter of fact.) We also received the most amazing card and handwritten letter in the mail on that exact day. She wrote to Sassy and told her how much she loved and had missed her, but that she was so excited she was turning one. Like any mother, she wrote about all the wonderful things she knew God had in store for her precious girl, and how she is uniquely loved, for always. I cried tears of joy upon reading that letter. It was like finding a brick of gold in my mailbox, and I promptly put it away in Sassy's "special box," where I keep all the little scraps of this or that from her biological family for her to have one day.

What do you wish you would see in future birthday celebrations re: involvement with your child’s adoptive parents/birth parents?
I have always wished for some acknowledgment from FirstMom on Sassy's birthday each and every year. I can't imagine going through that day without any sense of remembrance or recognition. I hope (and at this point, feel relatively secure in that hope) that Sassy will always be remembered by her first family on her birthday each year, whether that comes in the form of a phone call, a birthday card, or a gift sent. It has nothing to do with the amount that is spent on such items, but EVERYTHING to do with the fact that she is loved, and therefore time was invested to shop for, pick out, purchase, wrap, and send something to let her know they are thinking of her and loving her and that they remember it's her special day.

Additionally, if I were to hope for more than what I'd consider the "bare minimum," I would like to be able to celebrate Sassy's birthday with FirstMom, at least one year. I wish that someday she will be able to join us for her party, to sit amongst our closest family and friends as one of us, and to revel in the sheer joy of watching our daughter experiencing the thrill of her big day -- the cake, the presents, all of it. I can't say I've had the same level of confidence in this hopeful participation, but I've dreamt of it since the day she was born.

As I sat addressing FirstMom's invitation to Sassy's birthday party a few weeks ago, I noted to my husband that I was fully prepared to not hear a response again this year, but that at least she would know we remembered her and wanted her to feel included and welcome. Additionally, being aware of some very specific happenings in FirstMom's life right now, we could not have been more surprised to receive an email, just days after mailing the invitation, telling us that FirstMom was planning to make the drive that day and join us for the party! I cried again those same tears of joy, in awe of all that she will be able to experience by being here that day. Not just reading it in an update, or flipping through pictures, or watching a video, but to actually BE here and participate... it's amazing to me, and I feel so grateful for that opportunity! Sure, there are worries about her meeting our family for the first time, visiting our house for the first time, and just the inevitable emotions the day will bring... but I feel confident that it will ALL be worth it in the end, if for no other reason than I will have that one more memory for my daughter. Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that FirstMom is setting aside her current challenges to make the effort to be here for Sassy will ring much more clearly than my reminders someday to Sassy that FirstMom does love and care about her.

It's a wonderful thing, isn't it?

So. That was last week. And now it is this week. And as it turns out, we've gone from preparing our family members for our unexpected visitor, to hanging in the balance to see how the remainder of this week unfolds, and if FirstMom will be able to join us after all. This new branch of our adoption story has been an interesting one, and I've been contemplating when, or even if, I would feel "ready" to discuss it publicly. To be honest, I still don't feel ready. I still feel concerned, nervous, and anxious, but I know that life is about to change in a way I was not prepared for, and there's really nothing we can do about it but hang on for the ride.

Sassy is going to be a big sister. We've known this was coming for several months, but in some ways, it still feels as much of a shock as it did the day we heard the news. FirstMom will be delivering another baby girl as early as this week, though her due date is not until after Christmas. She will be parenting this precious little one, and for that, we are grateful. I cannot fathom FirstMom going through a second relinquishment. However, I would be lying if I said I was not nervous. Not about her mothering -- not in the least. FirstMom does parent in some different ways than we do, but I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that she loves her children and cares for them in the best ways possible. But, I am worried about the logistics of many things, and the day-to-day changes it will bring for them. While some aspects of this pregnancy are different than her last, we see many similarities. It breaks our hearts. It's not how it's "supposed" to be. Some of it is circumstantial; much of it is choice. It's a rough cycle to try and break when it's just too "easy" to remain at status quo.

We love FirstMom dearly. We want the absolute best for her and her family. She's in a totally different mindset this time around. It's very clear that she IS happy, and we thank God that this family is being spared from the loss of a child a second time in two years.

But... it's still hard. It's still unfair. It's still a punch in the gut to a woman who couldn't conceive if her life depended on it. And, MOST importantly, it's heartbreaking to think of my daughter, my precious baby girl, who will one day ask why her mom placed her, and then parented her sister just two short years later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shotgun adoptions

I stumbled across this article tonight while searching for something entirely different. It is eye-opening and startling, and I must warn any readers that it could be highly disturbing and triggering, particularly if you've relinquished a child.

While I must first of all say that I am extremely pro-life and do not apologize for that stance, what I read tonight deeply saddens me. This article provides account after account of women -- mothers -- who were strong-armed into placing their children for adoption. And what is particularly disturbing to me is that this is many times done in the name of Christ! "Christian" adoption agencies are among the largest contributors to this coersion. Why is this? Can someone please explain to me how those who claim to know Jesus personally would so grossly abuse their authority in order to "feed the machine," so to speak?

I do not agree with having a sexual relationship outside of marriage. I believe Scripture is very clear on that issue. However, is it not also clear on lying, cheating, disrespecting authority, and a host of other "permissible" sins? Do we parade those among us (ourselves included) who've committed these "permissible" sins in front of the church and shame them into making restitution -- a restitution that is acceptable to others?

Then why do unwed mothers receive this treatment?

Oh, I know. It all adds up to one thing. Money, and lots of it! But what floors me is the guise of Christian service that this manipulation is performed under. It literally breaks my heart that the women in this article, and so many more, have endured such a loss at the hands of those who declared they were working in the name of God. That is not God's heart at all. No, He certainly doesn't approve of the sin that took place, but He doesn't condone my "little" sins either! How unspeakably sad it is that Jesus' name is being used in such a profane way! It offends me as a Christian, and makes me ache for those who've had this experience.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two girls

Sassy and I went to Walmart this morning for all our usual necessities. I've gotten out of the pattern of going once a week, and have been going every couple of weeks lately. It makes for an expensive trip, but it does mean I'm going to Walmart less frequently, which is always a good thing.

I picked up some new tupperware to pack lunches in (some of our lids have been cracking, and the tubs are starting to look a little cruddy), shampoo, toothbrushes, garbage bags, and other various household items.

For the first part of the trip, Sassy's usually interested enough in whatever I'm putting in the cart. I pick it up off the shelf, hand it to her, she plays with it for a few minutes, and then either hands it back to me or dumps it in the cart. This works well for a while, but then she wants a snack. Today I had packed a small Take-N-Toss container of Multi-Grain Cheerios. I tell her to hold on to it carefully (as carefully as an almost-two-year-old can), and she does... momentarily.

Somewhere between the oatmeal and the olive oil, a sea of Cheerios spilled to the ground. I sighed in frustration, pushed the cart to the side of the aisle, and bent down to start collecting a million little O's. I heard an elderly couple stifling giggles behind me. I looked up and noted to them that I ought to carry a dustpan with me. They just chuckled and said it wasn't a problem. As they passed, they looked adoringly at my little girl, who sat silently in the cart watching me. She hadn't been "bad;" she was just being a kid, and accidents happen.

Next down the aisle came a young mom and dad with their slightly-younger-than-Sassy son. The other mom's eyes met with mine, and she sympathized. I joked that it's not a full day until I clean up Cheerios off of Walmart's floor. I laughed and said that it was usually animal crackers for them.

We finished our shopping. We came home, put our things away, ate lunch, cleaned up, and went outside for a while. Sassy played with sidewalk chalk and I vacuumed out the car. We watched the mailman deliver our mail, and went to get it out of the mailbox -- a big thrill for a toddler! Inside we came to wipe the chalk off her face and hands, change a diaper, look at books, and down for nap. (Well, one of us, anyway.) We must have had enough outside time for her to be tired out to sleep today, which is becoming less and less common here.

Tonight, we will put the items we purchased at the store today inside a shoebox wrapped with Christmas paper. We will send crayons, coloring books, watercolor paints, toothbrushes, toothpaste, a hair brush, hair bows, Play-Doh, a stuffed animal, candy, and an assortment of other goodies to another little girl somewhere in this world. We will pack this gift for her and drop it off at a nearby drop-off location. It will be processed and flown to another country where another little girl will receive it. It's possible that this will be her only Christmas present this year. She will not just be told about God's love, but she will be shown it as well.

Two little girls... probably similar in many ways, but different in so many others. We are blessed beyond measure, and though Sassy isn't old enough to understand what we're doing, I want her to grow up having ways to serve others and be a blessing to someone else, even to someone we don't know.

Will you pack a shoebox?