Little Reminders

It’s been six weeks since giving birth. It seems like longer in some ways and in other ways it seems like it just happened. Time has flown by in the way that it seems like the scent of Max’s hair, the feeling of his perfect baby skin, or the way his eyes had yet to settle in color are engrained in my memory. Since my time in the hospital after giving birth was all the time I had to spend with him, I don’t have much to cling to mentally. It’s a matter of debate to say whether or not clinging to memories is a good or bad thing, but in the instance of motherhood keeping memories in tact is the world–to a birth mother it’s truly everything.

I’m hitting phases of emotions that I sometimes feel capable of handling and other times I feel too angry to even sleep a full night from thinking so much. I now have the time to think through the small incidental actions (of the adoptive parents, Max’s father, the agency, my family, peers, etc.) and things I noticed and really sort through them.  Along with the hundreds of little “clues” I feel like I should have picked up on and questioned I must deal with peers. People obviously knew I was pregnant on sight in my last trimester, but they didn’t know I was seeking adoption. I wish I’d have just openly mentioned the decision then instead of keeping it to myself, because now I have to explain why I had no baby with me.

“Yes, I had the baby…I had a little boy…Well, he lives in south Texas now. I put him up for adoption….”

The conversation often pauses there long enough for the look of shock and/or pity to cross their faces; that’s about when the tears start stinging my eyes and my throat wants to close up. First of all, people are not acclimated to seeing me get emotional. At all. So this starts a process of slight freaking out on their part and a fight to get my face back under control of my brain and not my heart.

“It’s OK! I’m all right….He has a great new family that I like a lot.”

At this point, I’ve reeled in the watering eyes and have managed not to get mascara and eyeliner running down my face and people are either anxious to remove themselves from the uncomfortable situation OR worse….the pep rally starts.

I cannot begin to describe the anguish it creates in my chest for people to tell me what a good thing I’d done in choosing to place my son for adoption. A lot of words of approval get tossed into the atmosphere around my head and I’m left fighting the urge to roll my eyes or get irritated by the processions of “brave” and “wonderful” and “selfless”. It may be different for other birth moms, but these little approval cheers tend to grate my nerves because I feel guilty for having been in the situation at all. As people tell you their opinions of your choice they’re not able to factor in the less than favorable circumstances surrounding the decision.  I’m far more surprised that I can get through the praise than I can the explanations of these highly undesirable conversations. I’ve wondered a million times whether I’d be happier if someone berated me for my decision. It’s almost as if I want to have to defend my choice out loud so that I don’t keep cycling through these god-awful feelings of regret.

And those feelings are mostly what have been eating me. I know Max is loved. I know that he is safe. I know that he will never be without material needs. I know that he feels all the love he’s given because I’ve quite honestly never seen a newborn smile in so many photos! All that and yet I feel the motherly pang of regret. I’d fought to better my situation so that I could raise my first two children, why did it seem that I was giving up on this one? Feeling that way immediately triggers a sense of selfishness. Then I go through the entire cycle of feeling as if I shouldn’t feel selfish for feeling something so natural. However, I get gut-check moments from others sometimes. I was speaking with my social worker from the agency and as I mentioned getting photos from the adoptive parents she said, “So how are your kids?”

Your? The world should have stopped turning in that moment. It may have been harmless, but the way it slapped me in the face I couldn’t process it that way for the life of me. But I answered her the way she wanted and pretended like I didn’t want to yell. Amazing how “your” and mere suggestion of separation of how I classify Max from my two children at home angered me. I consider them siblings. They consider Max their little brother. Is that wrong? Because that “your” and the other ways she (either on her own or by procedure) found little ways of telling me that Max was not mine really got to me. I wanted to remind her that she was there as I signed my relinquishment…she saw my tears and heard my sobs as I read the document–I obviously comprehended the gravity of it all. I knew that Max was legally no longer my child and that I had no further claim on him.

Tell that to my body, though. Mother nature herself had been quick to remind me that I am the mother of a newborn child. Lactating (still!), contracting, hormonal swings, and PAIN all rolled through me full tilt. It took this situation to make me realize that taking care of a newborn during this period is what helps it go by much faster. Instead I felt every pop of my hips and pelvis, every crick in my back, and every gory sensation that is expected after giving birth…but it seemed specifically extended and poignant in Max’s absence. Nine months of pregnancy and I’m supposed to snap to because ink dried? …cute, lady!

I will never, ever be so nearsighted as to tell a birth mother that the child she bore is not hers. Even if she is the type of birth mother to have happily washed her hands of the entire situation. Don’t they teach diplomatic response to these people who work with women in these situations? Although I’d always acknowledged Max’s adoptive parents as his parents and had no problem accepting them as mommy and daddy to him, I still had the natural connection to him as my biological son. I care about him, I love him, and I want the best for him. There’s no amount of corporate or social training in the world to make a mother less cognizant of the fact that her child is a direct part of her….so why not just avoid causing that type of pain? Especially in a person who has made every attempt to show support to the child and the new parents! Especially if post-partum counseling has been forgone or forgotten by the agency. I can tell any agency worker or adoptive parent (from all those little incidents I previously mentioned) that you should do more to not act like the baby is your investment that you are staking claim in or that the birth mother should be leashed. No bueno.

I have NEVER used terms of possession in regard to Max when communicating with his mom. I know how insulting and/or threatening that could be. I know to be courteous of her love for him. Why would a professional not know to show the same courtesy to the woman who gave birth to the child?

As I continue to churn through the expected roller coaster that comes for birth moms after the baby has gone home with its family, I am also churning through normal single parent frustrations. School uniforms, supplies, lunch items, snacks, homework, bedtime, and my own school admission process has been a welcome distraction from all the the things my body, my peers, and my social worker hint at, scream, or say. Funny how you get “friendly” little reminders of your situation even if you’re the first to acknowledge it. C’est la vie.

 

 

For other birth mothers out there, I’m including a poll asking about your experiences with your agency, worker, and the adoptive family. I’d love to get feedback (and comments) on what others are dealing with or simply feedback from someone who found themselves here in passing 🙂

Miley Cyrus did Parents a Favor

If up until the VMAs last night you, among with Josh Gracin, were under the impression that your preteen daughter was wisely being entertained by a 20 year old hell bent on proving….anything…then Miley Cyrus did you a favor.

How?

Well, for the past couple of years Miss Miley has been doing everything in her power to prove to some unknown entity that she’s not fake, a child, typical or whatever else she picks up on and takes offense to. “Everything” has been a list of things that includes videoing herself with bongs, getting snapped licking a cake in the shape of a male member, dancing on a pole at the Kid’s Choice Awards, twerking in a monkey costume, or sticking her tongue out every thirty seconds to punctuate every wannabe sexy thing she did on stage at the MTV video music awards.

In case you missed one of those or any of the other red flag moments that should have cued you to get your non-NC17 friendly child away from the TV when Miley was announced, you definitely got the point last night. A day late and a dollar short, perhaps, but better late than never. I mean, if you missed everything else, you really do need to thank her for giving you Foxworthy level sign.

You should also thank her for sending an outpouring of resentful parental feelings onto the interwebs about it. Seems like you’re not alone in finding her behavior appalling. I’m honestly so very glad everyone has made their feelings on Miley’s performance so open and blunt…because the door for bluntness swings two ways.

Miley is your child.

Don’t deny it, either. Not only did you feel the need to berate her for her behavior, but you feel that she has an irrefutable place in your family that makes her as much an influence as a big sister! Anyone with such a significant impact on the molding of your child’s psyche and moral compass MUST be blood!

Ok, I’ll leave the pretentious dramatics to Miley, but the point I’m really trying to get at is that you can’t blame the impressionability of a child on someone else. The truth is, your kid is only highly impressionable because you’ve left them that way. Children are born malleable and are to be guided and molded to the highest degree by their parents. If they’ve gotten into the preteen stages still as impressionable as they were at two when they parroted everything they heard, then that’s not the rest of the world’s fault. A child’s level of impressionability is a sign of how much parenting has happened. So, it’s a good idea to disown Miley as your child’s familial role model (again a thing that is only really allowed by parents) and take an active role in helping your child become capable of seeking their role models and mentors.

Having said that, you should thank Miley again. Because she’s made you aware of how much more fortifying you have to do inside your child’s impressionable little mind. The impressionable minds of innocent children have survived Elvis’ pulsating pelvis, Madonna’s cone bras, and Britney’s life from 2007-2011. They’ll survive this, too, as long as the world remembers there’s always going to be a long imperfect world surrounding their prides of joy.

I’ll thank Miley Cyrus, too. I have an eight year old daughter and a six year old son to ensure do not make it to the age of twenty feeling impressionable enough to have to prove every naysayer and peer wrong for the trivial opinions they may have about their life.

Dear Adoptive Parents…

I don’t know what heartache you went through before you sought out adoption. I don’t know what psychological, emotional, and spiritual battles you had to overcome. I sympathize on every level; but I hope you understand that birth parents endure some of these obstacles both before and after a child is placed with you. I can’t ever venture to assume that any trials are greater or in higher regard to the next…but in direct relation to the obstacle of creating a family, once you’ve adopted that obstacle has been passed. Please understand that the ending of your obstacle is the beginning of someone else’s.

As I’ve learned through the weeks following relinquishing my son, battles each set of parents face merely switch places in adoption.  The anxiety I knew the adoptive parents felt in being so close to the end of their process and the possibilities of having their dream ripped from them is a powerful anxiety that is switched to the birth mother (or birth parents) as they fear their baby may have adoptee related challenges or that the adoptive parents may not hold up their promises or agreements. It needs to be clearly understood that we’re afraid of each other to some degree! Both our greatest fears in regard to a child are there to hone in on… They made a choice for the benefit of that child with love. They came to do you in one of the most (if not THE most) terrifying moments of their life and trusted you and an agency–I beg that you don’t put your fears and insecurities ahead of those of a birth parent.

Please understand as you were worried that your life would seem incomplete or that you would never realize your dream of parenting that on the other side someone is worrying that they are/aren’t making the biggest gamble of their life or that they will give life to a child and spend years being in the dark about that child’s life. We are both afraid!

Please understand that as you fear that you will never hold a baby next to you and feel the love of their first big smile that on the other side of this someone is agonizing that they are forfeiting that opportunity and entrusting those first memories to you! We are both afraid!

Birth parent or adoptive parent…there is a child involved in the adoption process that BOTH already love and that BOTH have feared they would never know.

I’m sure the agency has prepared you for worst case scenarios with a birth mother, but did you wonder if the agency prepared the birth mother for adoptive worst case scenarios? On both sides of adoption there are horror stories and people with negligent judgement. For every story of an intrusive birth mother or parent, there is a story of an obstructive adoptive parent. For every story of a birth mother that changed her mind and kept her child, there is a story of an adoptive parent that changed their mind and decided to switch an open adoption to a closed one.

If you are dealing with a birth mother or birth parents that have confided in you, have grown fond of you, and have come to trust you it makes no sense to disregard their fears and take precedence of your own. People tell birth mothers for weeks that she’s making the right decision…that she’s brave….that she’s making the most loving and selfless choice imaginable–don’t betray that without more cause than being fearful of what you’ve imagined! Because she’s imagined the worst and hoped for the best from you! Just like you had up until she/they signed their documents.

Separate your fears from tangible issues. This is something both sides need to do. I understand that some birth parents have issues that a child absolutely needs separation from, and in those cases I don’t blame an adoptive couple for protecting their child. But when consciously entering an open adoption, it should be understood that faith and trust are expected and counted on. If you have sought an open adoption and have connected to a birth mother or birth parents that do not have abuse, drugs, illegal activity or other stereotypical issues (MANY don’t have any such problems) there is no reason to decide to suddenly cut her/them out of a child’s life. You counted on the honesty of the birth mother to follow through and now she’s counting on you to follow through with the pretense of openness. Betraying that not only has lifelong negative effects on an adult, but on the child.

As most private adoption agencies carry a religious title within their name, I’m quite miffed at the fact that so many instances of distrust and fearmongering seems to create so much tension around what should be a process handled with more love and professionalism.

You can probably tell how much a birth mother or birth parents truly care about their child. Even if they don’t seem to care as much as you think they should or as much as you think you would in their position, it’s a low form of dishonesty to pacify them and then shut them out.

We are both afraid. And we both committed to a process with known contingencies. While it’s perfectly legal to close an adoption and to cut contact with a birth parent for no reason, it’s not the expectation garnered under the guise of open adoption–it’s baiting and switching.

There are common sense ways to protect your family from potential dangers. These should have been considered, weighed, and thoroughly questioned ahead of time. And if the mental response to this was that a birth mother should have considered, weighed, and thoroughly questioned adoption ahead of time, then you are a PERFECT candidate for a CLOSED adoption. That thought process shows you would not have the capacity to balance a relationship or make considerations for another parent/couple who share a link to the child you want. For the sake of thinning out big, bad adoptive parent stories do not seek an open agency. Only people well rounded enough to separate reality from big, bad birth birthmother stories should seek open adoption.

Understanding and love are the main ingredients of an open adoption. Not just of the child! But between both sets of parents in the best interest of the child. I hope you have considered all these things and I pray that in the ways that your fears gave way to realized dreams that you pay it forward.

-A post adoptive birth mother

What Comes After Z?

Maybe we need a zombie apocalypse.

Would an influx of our generations past be SO bad? Really?

I’d often found myself wondering how the passing of our elders seems to impact individuals, families, communities, regions, and the world in sequence. Here in the United States there seems to be a lot of emphasis on how much we need to go “back”. In some instances it seems like “back” means back to when everyone used an outhouse when in others it just seems to mean back far enough to when people simply knew better.

My great-grandmother was a wonderful woman. I remember as a child going to her house out in the country and sitting at her feet, just watching and listening. Though she wasn’t able to bear hug me anymore, I felt her affection and heeded her words. She was loving, devoutly religious, kind, and wise. Even better, she kept our clan in check. As the matriarch of our very large family, she was the example and the unspoken word. You knew what she expected and were afraid to disappoint such a good woman. None of us wanted to step out of line and dishonor our name and legacy. Everyone tried to uphold the standard she set for our family.

Many families were like this, I realized. A lot of American families had an elder at the helm that had a distinct impact on morals and behavior. Generation X and Y had a preceding generation so distinct that they needed no collective name. Hell, it begs to be questioned if being handed monikers so close to the end of the alphabet was a warning. Did the passing of the Wardens (hmm, Generation W fits this) create an excuse for Generation X and Y to fall short?

When my great-grandmother died I remember standing near her grave watching my family and the many people she knew. The loss was profound and lingered heavy for a decade. But as I watched them I knew something had been triggered. In the eyes of people I’d known all my life I saw sadness and uncertainty. It took almost two decades to detect the pattern and what I concluded was the trigger. There are choices I’ve made as an adult that I’m sure I’d have never had to make had I been of the same disposition I was in while my great-grandmother was living. I can make the same observation of others in my family. There was very literally no way we’d have slipped up in the ways I’d witnessed and participated. Not to say that we became a bunch of thugs and thieves, but our standards of right and wrong slipped. Was this what happened in other families across the country?

Without those people who built the foundation of industrialized America and could remember the remnants of slavery, child labor, and immigration from the East, people started to change. Our generation of humanized superheroes is almost all gone. The people who laid the foundation of moral values, religion, and what it meant to behave in a post-modern era died away. And as I write this, I realize how good a term Warden is. Those examples of being were also the last consistent generation of cut and dry discipline. There was little grey area-right and wrong were not up for broad interpretation. Even jumping into political issues was very much “one or the other”.

Society has changed its expectation on the cut and dry principles. In some ways I think this is wholly acceptable as science, technology, and even psychology has made it clear that we are no longer living in a “one or the other” world. But I don’t think right and wrong are part of that. I think the volatility of American society’s take on politics and acceptable behavior went from being molded by matriarchs and patriarchs to money and pundits. So used to needing guidance, the demographic guided with discipline and fortitude of a warden were left less able to draw distinct conclusions without being lead to it. Think about this if you’re 25-35 with parents who have public figures they listen to with the same weight as a trusted family member…maybe one that is no longer there to guide them.

I probably just pissed someone off. But really think about it. Generation X was largely made to obey (despite our view of 1960s) a set of rules and values. While this may have been a major contribution to the modern trend of questioning authority (which is actually as ancient as our species), it’s probably Generations Y and Z most impacted by freedom of information and the influence of that information. I really wonder if the death of Generation W gave way to dependence on pundits/public figures by Generation X. Does that dependence hint to why the value system of yesteryear failed to take root with their children…Generation Y, who began birthing arguably the most impressionable generation of kids to date…Generation Z.

I’m no historian, psychologist, or geneologist. What I’ve said/asked is totally observational opinion. I find myself wondering things and playing them out to see if they make sense to someone else.

Politicians, figures, media entities, and CEOs all once had someone who would have raised an eyebrow or wagged a finger for being unethical…which is the adult version of behaving. I think we all had someone who used to call us when we tried to justify things we knowingly did wrong or would correct us if we thought for a second we could get away with lying by omission or cheating someone. There are people who really cannot positively function without a person that they love or respect holding them accountable. In case you want to argue that point, I will point out the large number of constituents and customers who are negatively impacted by unethical policy of Gen X individuals. See Wall Street 2007 to current public policy for reference.

Did the death of our (I’m Gen Y) great-grandparents create in our parents pundit dependency and in our children impressionability high enough to make right and wrong a completely different set of ideas? Are we all now so highly influenced by people and things outside our intrinsic family values that we’re witnessing a decline in our entire society?

It’s quite sad to think that either a good haunting or a zombie uprising by our great-grands might have more of an impact on cleaning up modern America than faulty regulatory processes….

Twelve Days to Tearless

I’ve finally been able to get through a solid 24 hour period without crying. Given the fact that I’m able to cry at the drop of a hat, I consider this a great thing. I look at photos of my 13 day old child and not instantly shed tears. The first 12 days of his life were spent in a period of wayward sadness and bittersweet joy.

The end of the sporadic tears doesn’t mean I’m not sad or do not miss my baby. As my body heals and changes I’m reminded that he was once a physical part of me. I  almost feel guilt for having been so ready to give birth two weeks ago because I was uncomfortable. It’s only now that I realize that the pregnancy was time with him and I shouldn’t have looked at it from such a selfish perspective. I’d resented the pain his size had caused and spent many nights sleepless due to his Hulk-ish movements. Discomfort now seems like a small price to pay.

At the same time I know that when he wakes up crying in the middle of the night that there’s probably less than a 3 minute wake time before one of his very happy adoptive parents is swooping him out of his bed and into their arms. 3 minutes may actually be too long in reference to their attentiveness, although I really have no real clue. It’s simply one of the many ways I get past time–I imagine how much he was being loved on last time I saw him and it helps ease my mind.

Being the overly observational person that I am I took in their mannerisms, tone, and demeanor when handling my baby. I studied them as they interacted with Max (my name for him, not theirs). They probably sensed that I was slightly off from the first time that I met them, but I couldn’t be the cool, calm person I was in the restaurant that day. I had to make sure that the “right” I felt then still felt right in those few hours before I signed my agreement and my child left with them. Although they showed signs of heightened possessiveness that pricked my nerve endings a handful of times, I understood it and still felt nothing stood out as a red flag. Maxton would go home with them and be a happy, well clothed and fed baby. I imagined that he would have a few moments in school aged life where he might get teased for acquiring his new parents’ mannerisms, but he’d be cute, personable, and witty enough to come out on top of it. He’d grow into a smart, caring, handsome teenager. He’ll be a loving, well-rounded, and handsome man. Of those things I’m fairly certain, but only time and positive reinforcement will tell.

Point is, I trusted my instinct and my choice. I respect and actually like the man and woman who will raise my baby. If you knew how hard it is for me to like people I’ve known years, you’d know this significance. It’s hard to even use possessive terms to describe Max, now. He is my biological child and I love him, but it’s hard to describe the alignment that seemed to occur as his new parents bonded with him. Despite my anger during my pregnancy I always had the feeling that my baby was here for a reason. I’m not deeply religious. Coming from a family with very religious talons I felt it more beneficial to be spiritual. Even still, I felt like my child had a path to cut into this world. Between this, my almost immediate connection to the adoptive parents, and the many fine details that connected all of us I’m surprised that my decision still weighs on my heart like it does.

I miss Max. I always will. His brother and sister will, too. But his absence isn’t calculated in my mind as a loss. Just like my choice to place him for adoption wasn’t a decision to “give him away”. I’d had this thrown in my face numerous times…that the baby was family and how dare I “give him away”. The childish and spiteful behavior that I have been subjected to since leaving the hospital all but solidified some of the underlying reasons I settled on adoption with such comfort. As close as my family is  it’s also very caustic at times. There can be love and comfort flowing one day and fire and brimstone flying the very next. I knew that whatever familial difficulties awaited Max in his future was not going to impact him the way I’d watched it impact the younger members of my own family. I loved him enough to not want to subject him to certain parts of my life that I was still a part of and trying to fix….and if I can’t fix them, he doesn’t have to be a part of the separation that will come into play.

Thinking of this and so many other things I can’t help but to breathe and be thankful that one thing I can count on is that Max is in good hands. As I start unwinding this emotional ball of barbed wire that I live I am glad he is not part of the aching process. I’ve gotten through rough times with my other kids and they seem happy and well-balanced regardless of those times, but it’s so comforting to know and be able to look forward to seeing how Max will grow without those factors.

There wont be a two-day no crying streak. I killed that possibility two lines into this entry, but getting to the end here makes me more likely to make it through tomorrow in the right frame of mind 🙂