Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Open Adoption: Feelings and Actions

So, has anyone out there said this journey was going to be easy? 

No?  Because I want my easy button.  A big giant easy button that will erase every difficult emotion, every conflicted thought, every bit of failed humanness I don't like in myself and I want to FEEL like Super-Adoptive-Mom-Of-The-Year.   I imagine other moms feel strong and secure and never question or worry.  I imagine that other moms never weep from the stress of juggling the needs of their children, the needs of their children's family of birth and their own needs and failings.

I hope I imagine wrong.

What follows is a stark confession of my humanness as an adoptive mom and I am choosing to share it here  not because I believe these feelings are right but because I believe they are common.  This who I am today and where I am at right now.  It is my reality and I know I will process this and move through it, but at this moment, at this time I lay it before you so that hopefully I won't feel quite so alone.

I really like the theory of openness in adoption.  It's the practice I am finding a tad disconcerting. 

When my daughters crawl into my mom's lap and snuggle her, it warms my heart.  When they demand that grandma read them a bedtime story instead of mommy I am secretly relieved that I am unburdened of that nightly chore for a moment.   I thrilled that they love, and feel loved.  I feel there is no subtraction from my motherhood or the depth of their love for me, or my love and commitment to them. 

When they squeal with joy and race for that first hug when a favorite aunt comes to the door, I celebrate the fact that they have a circle around them that loves them, and that they love in return.  When a sleepy toddler kicks and screams to get away from me and into the arms of her brother or aunt or friend as I carry her to nap time I laugh at how transparent her disgust for nap time really is.  I don't wonder if I am failing her or if she hates me or question if I am making the right parenting decisions for her.  I do not wonder if maybe she loves those not taking her to nap time more than she loves me. 

I am thrilled when my daughter reaches for the computer screen to pat the familiar face of my sister.  I feel nothing but a firm understanding of their emotions when they sadly recount the names of favorite cousins far away and missed  or beg to stop at a friend's home when we pass a familiar driveway. 

I do not feel threatened.  I do not feel ambivalent.  I do not feel jealous.  I do not feel fear.  I do not feel alone.  Or less than.  Or unloved.  Or sad.  I do not want to grab my children, run out the door, quit answering my phone, move and pretend that these people do not exist. 

And yet when my daughter reaches for her mother instead of me during one of our frequent visits my heart sinks.  When my 2 year old smiles and asks for her first mother to carry her on our walk instead of me I die a little inside.

I know who she is.  She is their first mother.  The mother they look like.  The mother whose motherhood will never be questioned when we are out together.  The mother who spoils them with treats and plays fun games the whole time we are together and she is the mother that never has to say no or put them down for a nap or take them to the potty.  She is the mother who struggles, but it is my job to make sure the girls are protected from those struggles and only know her as the fun, loving mother they see. 

Her mere existence makes me question who am I.  Her presence makes me question my very worth.   Is my place in their hearts secure?  Is my role acknowledged?  Does it matter if it isn't?  Where does my security lie? 

The girls are growing up.  They aren't the babies they were a few short months ago whose entire world revolved around only the 6 family members they spent every day with.  They have friends they love and they are remembering and responding with recognition to many people in their little world.  Their other mother is no longer a stranger we visit while they cling to my legs. 

She is a friend.  She is a playmate.  She is a source of junk food and silly games. 

She is known and loved.  She is a favorite.

I have built the foundation of this relationship.  I have done all the right things.  Things I believe in doing.  Things that are right to do.   I have pictures of their mother in their room.  I talk about upcoming visits with excitement in my voice and recount stories to them of past visits during the weeks in between.  I am present at every visit so there is never any fear of loss or separation.  I throw all the rules out the window and let her spoil them with treats.  I do the disciplining.  I end the games when it is time to go.  I do up the car seats and give reminders about pending naps.  If you are 2 years old, I suck. 

I don't mind sucking to my child in front anyone else but HER.  With her,  I want to be the loved mama.  I want to be the favorite.  I want to be the center of the world of these children we share.  It may not be right, or mature, or Godly, but it is true.  I don't want her to question who they love more.  And I want the answer to be me.  

These emotions are hard.  They are real and they are hard.  If it was just about me, and what was best for Jen, I might consider not answering the phone the next time her number pops on the call display.  I might not be quite as available for visits or quite as willing to leave two thirds of my family to take the girls to her home for another visit, especially one that is being asked for weeks sooner than I had planned on going.  I might shut down conversations or put away pictures.  I might quit sounding quite so dang thrilled when I talk about the WONDER OF HER when I talk to the girls.  

I won't, but I might, maybe, possibly, sometimes want to. 

And so I give myself permission to sit back and say to me  "Holy Freaking Hell I am being triggered!!!".   I give myself  permission to admit that I am  human and selfish and raw and scared.  It is ok to look at the darkest parts of my  heart and admit failure and humanness.  It's ok to feel it.  It's not ok to pretend those feelings are reasonable.  This journey isn't about whats right or easy for Jen.  It's about what's right for my children.  The children that own my heart. I feel this because I love them so much. I don't act on those feelings because I love them so much.

Last night, after a long visit and a longer day robbed of joy because of my own insecurities and incomprehensible feelings, that same 2 year old who thinks I sometimes suck as a mommy came up behind me, laid her head on my shoulders, wrapped her arms around my neck and said "I lub you mommy".  

I know you do sweetie.  And it's ok with me if you love other people too, even if it breaks my heart.

35 comments:

FauxClaud said...

Oh Jen...
Wow..just wow. and just thank you.. for being so honest and open and bringing up the ycuky stuff that no one wants to admit to.
The beauty of your truth has brought tears to my eyes. It really has.

Debi said...

Jen...this is the tough part of open adoption...that constant reminder that there is 'another mother'. With the amount of time I spend with Spencer's birthfamiy I am slowly getting over that feeling...but Spencer never had a strong bond with her like your girls do...it is different. Know that it does change and that your feeling to 'grow up' and at the end of the day when the sleepy heads lie..the girls are your daughters

MK said...

Jen -
I've missed your You are right that it isn't your story, but theirs and I'm terrible at that part. You are doing the most incredible job...and it's awesome to be human.

Pickel said...

You had me going (because I totally get that...my boys do that) until the birth mother. Then, my heart sank. Beautiful.

Kelly Diels said...

Jen, sweetie, I'm NOT an adoptive mom, and I GET THIS, completely.

I have a similar - not same, similar - experience with my children's father. My ex-husband. He gets to be the dispenser of fun and treats and trips to Playland while I'm tasked with parenting. And so they run to him, sing and dance when they see him, and they fight me. They fight the vegetables, bedtime, school drop-offs, getting dressed and every other mundane daily event.

Because *I* am the mundane daily event.

And I see them fighting me and adoring him, and I hurt. I'm jealous. I'm angry. I'm angry that he gets to be fun and I get to be...

the parent. The mama.

Sue said...

Jen ..you are the most wonderful person I have never met and I have always had a great love and respect for you ..you are truly AMAZING..with all my heart and soul I mean this and you are one of God's favorites <3

Lia - not Juno said...

YOU TERRIBLE EXCUSE FOR A PERSON HOW DARE YOU HAVE FEELINGS!

Sorry. I react with angry sarcasm to things that make me sad.

Keep doing exactly what you're doing.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Thank you for your honesty. It's human that you feel like this - it's what make you an amazing mom that you suck it up and push through.

Carissa said...

I am crying as someone put into words the feelings I have had for so long, I thought I was alone and I am not even in an open adoption yet though I would love to be in one most days. Thank you I needed this validation that I am not alone today of all days!

Andi-bo-bandi said...

This is so beautiful, Jen. It is so true, raw and honest. I appreciate it. Sometimes doing what is best for our children hurts us, but you are doing a great job! Thank you for your honesty.

I've linked you up on my blog. Hope you don't mind. ;)

Sally Bacchetta said...

Awesome post! Three cheers for honesty.

J. said...

you are amazing and brave and honest. thank you.

ManyBlessings said...

THIS is why you are a great mom. Good gosh girl you can put things into words that we all feel! Someday this allowing of love will bless you. Tremendously.

DrSpouse said...

You need to put this post behind glass marked "BREAK IN CASE OF INSECURITIES". Just lovely.

ks said...

incredibly moving and insightful - also something we needed to read as we consider adoption for our family. thank you.

Magnif7 said...

Wow, Jen! That is it EXACTLY. Thanks for making me feel a little less alone. Rationally, I knew it wasn't just me but it sure does help to see it in print.

Score one for honesty...

Debbie B said...

What a heart felt and honest post. We don't get to see our daughter's first mom very often now due to distance but I imagine if we were still seeing each other every month like the first year I would be feeling the same ways, for sure.

Thank you for being so honest.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty. I can't imagine how hard this would be to parent like this. Our first adoption (after three bios) was domestic newborn. It was not an open adoption, by both the choice of our daughter's birth mother and ourselves. I just didn't think I could handle all that an open adoption might entail. Our last four adoptions were international, so there is little chance of connecting with birth families, except in one possible case.

I felt good that we agreed to meet with our daughter's birth mother "L", shortly after placement. I was fearful, yet wanted to do what we could to help L feel good about what she had chosen for her child. L changed her mind and decided not to meet us. I respected her decision as something she just felt was best for her.

For the past 18yrs, I have faithfully and happily sent updates to our agency, as required and agreed upon, on our daughter J's birthday. I always enjoyed sitting down to write a recap of J's life, sharing her milestones and personality as best I could. It's made me feel very good to be sharing all I could with L about her child.

I learned just a few years back that L had not been requesting the updates from the agency. I was disappointed, because all this time I felt I was helping L know her daughter better as she grew. But I also understand that she did what was best for herself, knowing best what she could handle about the situation. I can respect that it was maybe too difficult for L or just that she wanted to move on with her life in some ways. Recently though, I've been told that L has asked for the updates. I'm very glad she will be able to read these things I lovingly wrote to her about J.

A few years ago, J told me that she wants to meet L. Up until then, and still, she has been happy and secure with her adoption. She wrote a paper on open adoptions, and in her opinion, just because of how her life has played out and who she is, she felt closed adoptions were best for the child. I hadn't known how she felt about the subject until she let me read her paper. She says she wants to be older when she meets L, out of college, and possibly married. I respect her decision, even if possible L might be moving toward a meeting.

All this to say, I am amazed at your strength. Because in our case, I have felt free to "be the mom" because of the honored committment of J's birth mother to allow us the freedom to raise her child as we would choose. I've always considered this as coming from a place of strength and love and nothing less on L's part. I know neither that nor not asking for updates all these years has anything to do with her love for her child.

I'm not sure why I share this as a post on your blog, except to share another kind of story from an older adoptive mom and adopted child. Maybe closed adoptions are a thing of the past. I know there are very good reasons to have open adoptions. But in the case of our daughter, it has not been a hurtful thing. I hope someday to be able to talk to L and find out more of what her life has been like after placing J with us. I pray that it has been a good life. We've done all we can to respect her privacy and also try to share some of her child's life with her through the updates. When J is ready, I hope I am around to be able to also meet L and share in that reunion. They might choose to do this without me, but I hope I can also meet L in person and share even more about her wonderful child with her.

My post is not a commentary on open adoptions, but just another story from a mom who thinks what you do is very brave.

Nancy

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty. I can't imagine how hard this would be to parent like this. Our first adoption (after three bios) was domestic newborn. It was not an open adoption, by both the choice of our daughter's birth mother and ourselves. I just didn't think I could handle all that an open adoption might entail. Our last four adoptions were international, so there is little chance of connecting with birth families, except in one possible case.

I felt good that we agreed to meet with our daughter's birth mother "L", shortly after placement. I was fearful, yet wanted to do what we could to help L feel good about what she had chosen for her child. L changed her mind and decided not to meet us. I respected her decision as something she just felt was best for her.

For the past 18yrs, I have faithfully and happily sent updates to our agency, as required and agreed upon, on our daughter J's birthday. I always enjoyed sitting down to write a recap of J's life, sharing her milestones and personality as best I could. It's made me feel very good to be sharing all I could with L about her child.

I learned just a few years back that L had not been requesting the updates from the agency. I was disappointed, because all this time I felt I was helping L know her daughter better as she grew. But I also understand that she did what was best for herself, knowing best what she could handle about the situation. I can respect that it was maybe too difficult for L or just that she wanted to move on with her life in some ways. Recently though, I've been told that L has asked for the updates. I'm very glad she will be able to read these things I lovingly wrote to her about J.

A few years ago, J told me that she wants to meet L. Up until then, and still, she has been happy and secure with her adoption. She wrote a paper on open adoptions, and in her opinion, just because of how her life has played out and who she is, she felt closed adoptions were best for the child. I hadn't known how she felt about the subject until she let me read her paper. She says she wants to be older when she meets L, out of college, and possibly married. I respect her decision, even if possible L might be moving toward a meeting.

All this to say, I am amazed at your strength. Because in our case, I have felt free to "be the mom" because of the honored committment of J's birth mother to allow us the freedom to raise her child as we would choose. I've always considered this as coming from a place of strength and love and nothing less on L's part. I know neither that nor not asking for updates all these years has anything to do with her love for her child.

I'm not sure why I share this as a post on your blog, except to share another kind of story from an older adoptive mom and adopted child. Maybe closed adoptions are a thing of the past. I know there are very good reasons to have open adoptions. But in the case of our daughter, it has not been a hurtful thing. I hope someday to be able to talk to L and find out more of what her life has been like after placing J with us. I pray that it has been a good life. We've done all we can to respect her privacy and also try to share some of her child's life with her through the updates. When J is ready, I hope I am around to be able to also meet L and share in that reunion. They might choose to do this without me, but I hope I can also meet L in person and share even more about her wonderful child with her.

My post is not a commentary on open adoptions, but just another story from a mom who thinks what you do is very brave.

Nancy

Lily Miller said...

I know how you feel. My adoption though it's open, doesn't really include more than one visit every couple of years because the birth family live really far from us. But my daughter was 6 when we adopted her a year ago. She loves her first mom and tells a lot of stories that include her birth family. AND I HURT every time that the word mom comes out of her mouth if it's not refering to me. Her first mom is so much fun: she could eat whatever she wanted, ride her bike in the street, play at the neighbors all day, miss school if she felt like it, have sleepovers at any friend's house, watch TV for as long as she wanted... And I SUCK: she needs to eat vegetables, do homework, go to church, sit in timeout, clean her room... But despite my insecurities I know that she loves me, I know that she'll be thankfull and deep inside I feel sorry for her first mom, because I'm the one who will be there for the rest of Izadora's life and she just gets visits.

zabe77 said...

You sound like a wonderful mother. Thank you for such an open, honest post.

Sunnie said...

Sounds like you are human to me!!
I am not an adoptive mom but I am a divorced mom and when my child would make her regular visits to her father's and it was all rainbows and unicorns and lollipops with him and at the time his new wife I will have to say I can relate.
So many many many of us(adopted parents or not) have felt this in one way or another.
Don't be so hard on yourself---you are human.
Sunnie in NC

Von said...

We raise our children to be able to love and care for others, if you are successful in that aren't you doing a good job?
You chose adoption, presumably you chose open adoption..it is hard, adoption is not like other parenting as you have found out.
If you're interested in my full response go to http://eag-oncewasvon.blogspot.com You've done a brave post here, may there be more honesty in adoption.

Susie said...

I agree with Claud ~ wow. It is refreshing to see such honesty.

I hope you get to the point where you can feel the same towards your child's mom as you do your extended family when your daughter shows affection & love to them. As you know, love multiplies, it doesn't divide!

Susie

luna said...

thank you for your honesty in this lovely post.

though my daughter is just one, our adoption is very open and I've wondered whether and how I might ever encounter feelings like this. thanks again.

Lori S said...

Saw your comment on A Bushel and a Peck blog. Yes! I can relate! I hear, "I miss my mom", "My mom used to...", on and on. We smile, we encourage, we comfort, we hide the pain and we say the right things because we know it's what is best for our children! That's what makes us GREAT moms!! :)

Heather said...

Thank you for being brave enough put this out there. You rock.

Dana K said...

Great post Jen, made me cry and validated my feelings about my ex. I've put my big girl panties on many a time in the past few years. He got to be the fun one, I got to be the one with the rules, the chores and the mundane. They love me, but Dad was SUPER COOL. As the kids are getting older they GET IT. They appreciate that I'm the one who makes the lunches and cleans the laundry and does all those day to day things mundane. That day will come for you too, they'll always love getting spoiled and candy when they see her, but they'll GET IT too.

E said...

I'm not involved in adoption at all. I read your blog because you write so well.

I was a single mother to my son for most of his life. He had a father and step father. Now he's 30 and he long ago figured out who stands by him.

There is no substitute for daily love and attention. Your time together is the foundation of your relationships. Come hard times this will help get you thru.

ONEWEIRDWORD said...

Hi Jen,

These feelings can happen with a closed adoption - that opens up. My little brother found his birth mother. And soon discovered that a few years after he was born, she and his birth father got married. And had two kids, a boy and a girl. So my little brother, who already had us: a mom, a dad, a brother and a sister (me), found out he had a whole other family unit.

It took him about 10 years to get over the shock, actually. Then, after he had a new baby daughter himself, at my mother's suggestion (and I know you can relate to her loving generosity), he and my mom recontacted them through a letter.

It was REALLY tough! We met the whole family and they're all REALLY nice! But oh boy, it was tough. I was so afraid (even as his sister) of losing him - even though he was in his late 20s by that point and i was in my 30s. I was jealous of his sister as they got to know each other. Now, she and I are friendly, and we are all in contact with all of them and see them from time to time. He is best friends with his other brother. He truly cares for his birth parents - gawd he looks so much like his birth father, it's just unbelievable. But he knows that our mom and dad are his mom and dad.

We didn't lose him.

Kristina said...

Yes, Jen, I am right here with Claud.
Thank you SO much for your honesty.
It warms my heart, the heart that wants to grow cold towards all adoptive moms...and that should NEVER.
I have so much respect and gratitude for moms like you.
Honesty and communication is all that i really would like from M's adoptive mom.
Yet, it seems like I may never get it.
I have to remember that not ALL moms are like this.
Thank you for reminding me :)

XOX
Mama K.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing Mom you are! I am a new adoptive Mommy to a precious baby that we prayed many years for. We never imagined it happening the way it has, it is a relative adoption - so we are in a very unique situation with full open adoption. I have always been close to this part of our family and never expected the insecure feelings that I am now experiencing. I do not want these feelings at all and get sad that I fear their future relationship. Thank you for your honesty and verbalizing what is rarely discussed.

Sherry Kirby said...

Thank you so much for this post! I've felt so many of those feelings and it is a constant battle with myself to guard my reactions when my son refers to his first mother as "mom". I know it doesn't lessen my place, but man does it hurt sometimes! It's just nice to know I'm not alone in my feelings or my desire to let them know their birthmom even though it hurts :)

Sherry Kirby said...

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for these words. It's like you looked in my heart and spoke what I feel. It sounds like your children are very blessed :)

Tamra said...

so, i just shered this post, yet again, and i though "i should let her know how very helpful this post has been to so very many". I've been sharin it for quite some time now when a relevant question comes up. you can give compelling information, but an example is so much more effective at changing hearts and minds. people can see your courage and model their own after it. thank you for being that brave and loving but thanks more still for putting it out there!