Friday, March 26, 2010

Learning names

Before Sassy was born, someone gave us a little baby-proof picture book. The cover says something about "people who love me," and there's pockets for your own pictures of family members and friends to be inserted. I thought this was such a great idea, and I even remember noting while I was opening the gift that one of the slots could be used for FirstMom's picture.

Even though Sassy's baby days are quickly slipping away (some would argue that, at age two, there's very little "baby" left in her), we'll still pull out that little baby picture book from time to time. We go through it and discuss who is in each picture. It's also interesting to let her figure out who that baby (at varying stages) is with all of these people she calls her family.

There's a picture framed in her bedroom of FirstMom holding Sassy the day after she was born. Occasionally, I'll point it out and ask her who that is. She knows now and can tell me FirstMom's name. She doesn't yet understand that she is the baby, all swaddled in nursery blankets.

We talk about "who" FirstMom is to her, as much as is possible at a young toddler's level. We practice various "terms," trying to try them on for size, if you will. I don't yet know which one will fit. As an adult who is fully secure in who I am to my child and that no one can ever take her from me, I'm personally a fan of "first mom," just because it's true. It makes sense. It's honest. But, from the position of my young child, who isn't yet old enough or mature enough to comprehend (even in part) what it means to be adopted (thereby having a complete "other" family before the family she knows now), I don't know that I'm ready to commit to one particular term above another for her sake.

I've noticed lately that as I ask Sassy who someone in a particular picture is, she'll almost certainly reply with FirstMom's name. Even if it's someone who looks NOTHING like her. Even if it's a picture of Sassy herself as a baby. She says her name with a questioning tone, but looks at me with a proud grin.

Why is this? Why has FirstMom become her default guess? I'm not bothered that she knows her name; after all, this is what we've been practicing, right? I don't think it's appropriate to bring her up daily at this point, but I also don't want my daughter to feel blindsided by new information someday. But why does she make this same guess each time?

Maybe it's time to back off from learning names for a while.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Open Adoption Bloggers: Interview with Sally Bacchetta


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author Sally Bacchetta, of The Adoptive Parent, for the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. Sally is an adoptive mama to a daughter and a son. She's been involved in this crazy world of adoption for a few years more than I have, so I always appreciate hearing insight from those who are further down the road than I!

Poor Sally will likely keep having to answer questions from me, even though this interview project is over. I excitedly sent off my first batch of questions (yes, first), and within a matter of a day or two, I'd thought of more things I wanted to ask her. Now that it's all said and done, and I'm putting the final touches on this post... I've thought of more questions. My apologies in advance, Sally! :)

One really nifty thing about this lady is that she doesn't just blog... she writes books. Specifically, this one. Keep reading below to get a sneak peek at what's inside her recently released "What I Want My Adopted Child to Know."

***

For those new to your blog, can you give a little background on you and your family?


Despair and my husband (Dennis) led me to adoption. After a few years of trying to conceive followed by a few years of the infertility circus, we called it quits. I had developed some serious complications that made it almost impossible for us to conceive and life-threatening to me if we did. So it was time to move on.


We meandered our way through the thoughts and emotions of healing from infertility, and eventually Dennis suggested adoption. After much discussion and prayer, we emerged together at peace and ready to embrace adoption as our path to parenthood. We had been married for 8 years when we adopted our daughter, now almost 5, and last year we adopted our son, who just turned a year old. I can’t imagine becoming a mother any other way.


Was there a moment in time that really drew you to open adoption over other types of adoption? Or was it something you sort of "fell into" unexpectedly?

I never considered (and would never consider) a closed adoption. Our children’s biological families are theirs. Their origins are theirs. I consider their birth families among the most important people in my kids’ lives, because it’s they who chose this life for my kids. We want our children to know their birth families as much as possible because that’s knowing part of themselves. We want them to be able to ask questions and share feelings as their lives evolve and their thinking about adoption changes.

Selfishly, I could never be at peace without contact with my kids’ birth families. I needed to meet their birth mothers, I needed to hold their hands and look in their eyes and ask them why they chose adoption. I needed to tell them that it’s OK to change their minds, that it doesn’t matter what anyone’s expectations are, it doesn’t matter what papers are waiting to be signed, it doesn’t matter how much Dennis and I want children… that this is their baby, and they are the mother, and no one else knows what’s in their heart or head, and if they decide to raise the baby themselves, then that’s the right choice. I needed them to look at my face and know that I meant what I said.

And because we had those opportunities, I can love my children freely. I can love them without guilt or uncertainty. I can love them without any insecurity about their birth families. All because of openness.

And I have to say that we use the term “birth mother” in our family because our children’s birth mothers asked us to. Our children call their birth mothers by their first names and refer to them in conversation by their first names or as “my birth mother.”


Do you feel that your family and friends are overall supportive of your family's open adoption, or have you encountered more questions and concerned statements from those close to you?

I guess they’re as supportive as they’re able to be. I’m fairly certain none of them really understand the unique relationships we have with our kids’ birth families, but I don’t expect them to. The only time it bothers me is when someone asks an ignorant question like, “Aren’t you afraid she’s going to change her mind after she sees him/her?” If you have to ask that, you really don’t get it.


If you could tell your children's first parents anything, what would you tell them?

Thank you. I love you. I love seeing you and my kids together. I hope you’re OK. I worry about you. I wish I heard from you more often. I’m afraid of sharing too much about how amazing the kids are because I’m afraid it’s painful for you. You inspire me. (I tell them those things already.)


Having been through the adoption process twice, how did your experiences compare or differ from each other? How did you process the emotions and the grief side of placement the second time around?


This is something I often think about, yet being asked here, now, the question has proven much more difficult for me to answer than I originally expected. I felt very little grief the first time around, and there are several reasons for that. One, "M," our daughter's birth mother (herself an adoptee) was very young, and it was really easy to understand why she chose adoption. Two, we met her the night before we brought our daughter home, and we haven't seen her since. Three, our journey to parenthood had been terribly long and incredibly painful, and I was literally light-headed when we met "M" and later, our daughter. I was emotionally intoxicated by the "miracle of adoption." It was like falling in love... the world fell away... I felt nothing but pure bliss. Within a few days of homecoming my thoughts turned to "M," and I wondered how she was doing and if her life still fit. Still, she had been so clear and decisive about her decision I never imagined her grieving. Curious, yes... wistful, maybe. Not grieving.

I'm sure that's why I was stunned by the near-obsession I've felt for our son's birth mother, "J." We have a more open relationship with "J" (emails and visits in addition to pictures and letters), and we spent quite a bit more time with her before bringing our son home. "M" has always been sort of a mystical character in my mind, whereas "J" has always been real. Our relationship with "J" snares me in uncertainty - how much detail should I share? Why hasn't she written back yet? Does she ever regret her decision? The up-side about our openness is that I can ask her these questions, and she seems sincere when she says she does not regret her decision. I, of course, worry that she may yet, that she may be protecting herself from grief. But I take her at her word and trust that she will let me know if things change for her.

I know this is a long answer! I think about this a lot. I'm obviously definitely not anti-adoption, but I think the adoption industry can do a much better job educating prospective adoptive parents in this regard. I think most adoptive parents don't realize what angst and healing most birth mothers go through... for some, peace never comes again in this lifetime... and I think that piece should be in place before adopting. Otherwise, it's like having surgery without giving informed consent. Potential adoptive parents should know the WHOLE picture, and that includes talking to birth mothers (with both positive and negative experiences) and adult adoptees (both pro and con adoption) before making a decision. For me, the issue is general under-education by the adoption industry, not adoption itself. One of the reasons I wrote my book is to help change that. I think there's great value in partnerships between adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and birth parents... working together to make sure that "open" is really open for everyone involved.


What do you think has been most influential for you (or any member of the triad) in terms of support?

Maybe surprisingly, birthmother/first mother forums and blogs are the biggest influence on me. I find them generally difficult to read because of the intensity and prevalence of pain expressed there, but for that same reason, I think they’re vital to me as an adoptive parent. I think all adoptive and prospective adoptive parents need to actively cultivate their understanding of birth mothers’ experiences. I think Ann Fessler’s book, The Girls Who Went Away, should be required reading for anyone considering adoption.

Even at the time of our second adoption I was very na├»ve about the adoption industry. Both our children’s birth mothers had family support and no one pressured them into adoption. Both did consider raising their babies, and both would probably have been able to make it work. Each ultimately chose adoption for her own reasons, but since they were (and still are) at peace about their decisions, I never questioned the rhetoric that adoption is a “better” choice than single parenthood or unwed motherhood. At the time, I had no reason to question it.

Since then, through the writing of my book (What I Want My Adopted Child to Know: An Adoptive Parent’s Perspective), I have met and spoken with countless birth parents, extended biological family, and adult adoptees, and my understanding of adoption is much more comprehensive. Certainly, no one birth mother speaks for all birth mothers, and no group speaks for all people, but there are universal themes running through adoption that I think adoptive parents need to understand.


In terms of their adoptions, what do you most want your children to know as they grow up?

Several things – that’s why I wrote my book :), and each is a chapter in What I Want My Adopted Child to Know:
  • I Would Do it All Again
  • We Really Are Your Parents
  • I Regret What I Can’t Give You
  • You Are Not Different Because You Were Adopted. You Are Different Because You Are You
  • To My Daughter/To My Son (“I can’t imagine any mother loving her child more than I love you.”)
  • I Want to Be Part of Your Process
  • I Think About Your Birth Parents
  • Before You Search (“The truth is that your birth story has no real bearing on the opportunity you have to create the life you want.”)
  • I Will Always Love You

What are some of your favorite traditions you enjoy with your children?


Cooking and baking. Reading! Making up songs, exploring the natural world, and writing love notes to each other.

***

Thank you, Sally, for such a lovely interview! I've enjoyed getting to know you a little better. Thanks for letting me pick your brain!

Besides her blog, further information and resources can be found at Sally's website, The Adoptive Parent.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another great coupon resource

Can you tell I love my coupons? :)

I keep meaning to share that I found another site similar to Shortcuts, which I posted about a few weeks ago. Cellfire works much the same way (see my post on Shortcuts for a more detailed explanation), and what is even more awesome... I've discovered that coupons that overlap are BOTH credited to your account! Combine this with a coupon from the paper, and you can find some items for very cheap or even free! Love it!

I've found so far that Shortcuts is laid out a little better for me... it seems to be a little more organized, and I like that the expiration date is easy for me to find. Cellfire isn't quite as great in this way, but I really can't complain when I'm saving money. :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The million dollar question

Why is it that probably a good 90% of my difficult moments relating to infertility and adoption happen at church?

It was my turn to work in the nursery this morning, and more commonly than not, conversation at some point will turn to babies, who's having babies, who just had a baby, or who will probably soon be having a baby. Pregnancy hormones, labor horror stories, and childbirth scars are all fair game for topics of discussion. I understand that when moms get together, particularly young moms, pregnancy and childbirth does come up at times. I usually just sit quietly and hope for the subject to be changed quickly. Most people know that Sassy was adopted, but it's still an awkward topic for an adoptive mom, as I honestly don't have anything to contribute.

This morning, though, I was dragged into the conversation. I'm sure it was an attempt to make me feel included, but I would have felt better just waiting it out.

Mom #1: "So, are you guys going to be started the proc---"

Me (cuts her off in the middle of the word "process"): "Nope, I'd rather not think about it! I have no idea what we're doing."

Mom #1: "Wouldn't you like to have another baby?"

Me (not interested in explaining the difference between desires and reality): "I'm just really happy with my one kid right now."

Mom #2: "But you don't want them to be too far apart. I know someone who is six years older than their sibling, and they never were very close."

Me: "Oh, I'm not too worried about that yet."

Mom #3: "Well, my kids are all three years apart."

Me: "Maybe I just have a different frame of reference because my next sibling is four years younger than me."

Mom #3: "Really? Are you close?"

Me: "Yes. I'm actually probably even closer with the one who is five years younger than me."

Mom #3: *gives me a dissatisfied look*

Mom #2: "You know, you always think you won't be able to love your second child as much, but you do. I had a few pregnancy scares before I actually ended up being pregnant -- and still got pregnant before I wanted to *laughs* -- and just wasn't excited about that at all. But it all works out in the end."

Mom #1: "Yeah, it's like you can't imagine life any other way now, but once you have another, you won't be able to imagine life any other way then."

Me: "I mean, I know I'd love a second child, but it definitely hard to imagine another loving another child as much as you love your first. It's like -- how can anyone else compare?"

Moms #1, #2, and #3: *smiling, nodding, and giving knowing looks* "You'll be fine! You'd love having a second one!"

Me: "I've always thought how it just won't be the same again, even from when she was a tiny baby."

Mom #1: "Oh, but it is!"

Me: "No, I don't mean about love... I mean about time and attention."

Mom #1: "It really does work out. You really will have enough of everything to go around."

Me: "I mean things like -- when Sassy was a baby, I'd take twenty or thirty minutes just to change her diaper if I wanted to. We'd play or talk or whatever."

Mom #1: "Well... yeah, that DOES change!"

Me: "Even things like Sassy still waking at night sometimes. I'm not ready to be up all night every night again!"

Mom #1: "Yeah. My cousin is an only child, and their reasoning was that her dad didn't think he could love another one as much. When she was a kid, she HATED it. But now as an adult, it's nice because her parents can follow her all around the country when they move and not split their time. She has two boys, and I think her dad now understands what it's like to love two kids. I think he sort of wonders... maybe he could have done it."

Me (getting that the obvious implication here was regret, but not wanting to go down that road with people I'd consider acquaintances): "You know... there's just SO many factors that go into that decision."

Mom #2: "Oh, sure! But you're never really 'ready'... until it happens."

*Another worker brings a young baby into the room, and MY child flocks to see the baby.*

Mom #1 and #2: "See?! She'd be FINE!"

Me: "Yeah... it's ME that I'm worried about though!"

Mom #2: "You'll be FINE! Come on! Have another one! I'm going to talk you into it."

Me (voice shaking): "It's just... I, um... (*getting teary-eyed*) I had a really difficult time bringing Sassy home."

Mom #1 gives me a sympathetic look at this point, and the rest of the room waits for me to divulge as many details as I will.

Me: "It's just, you know... it's tough. I mean... it's taking someone else's child away. I mean, it's not... but it feels like that..."

Mom #1: "But you'd have to think of the good---"

Poor Mom #1. I cut her off for the second time, because I know darn well what was going to be said. Think of the good home you're providing for a baby who needs one. Think of all that she has that she wouldn't have otherwise had. Think of the wonderful Christian home she's now in. Think of what a godly thing adoption is. Think of what her life would have been like if you hadn't intervened.

I couldn't do it. Absolutely never. I couldn't stop the question from coming, but I intercepted it as best I could and spun it in a different direction.

Me: "I know, you think of the end result being that you love your child so much, and you'd go through anything for your child. We talk about this actually, and I know that if it came down to it, I'd have to just push through the initial bad stuff to come out on the other side and be able to love my second child as much as I do Sassy. It's just that... the beginning... it's tough."

I would LOVE to know what anyone else does in situations like these. I try to say the standard line of "We're just happy with one!" and leave it at that, but sometimes, as evidenced by this morning's conversation, that one-liner isn't enough. How can you convey, particularly to a group of people who have NO frame of reference for adoption -- other than it being a "good" thing to do -- the feelings of loss, grief, and hesitation to jump back on the ethics crap shoot? How can you explain, in a relatively brief and somewhat elusive manner, that it's SUCH a multifaceted process? That just because point A leads to point B doesn't mean there aren't eight million microscopic points in between, many of which can carve out a canyon in your soul?

Trying to switch the focus off me a little bit, I asked the only other mom in the room who was parenting an "only" if she got that question a lot, too. She said she was already ten weeks pregnant with her second. Oh. Of course you are.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm in

By the skin of my teeth. :)

Deadline ends today for the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project.