Nostalgia

I’m transitioning. I decided to get back in to the corporate workforce and start another means of getting the same places I’ve wanted to be over the last couple of years. For some people this is news that would cause them to reel and spittake…for others, they just understand how I get when I want something. I tear into it and just go.

There’s looking at new school districts, neighborhoods, and old apartments and houses smothered in layers of fashionable shades of paint. All of this seems to have gotten mechanical. There’s a part of me very excited about getting out of my small town and there’s this constant ebb in me that still feels grounded here…that holds on to the hopeless nostalgia of the place I have been raising my children and carried what could be my last baby.

Max is going to be a year old in three weeks.

I haven’t held him since he was three days old. I don’t remember what his hair smells like anymore. I couldn’t tell you how it feels to cradle him and pat his little diapered butt as he bounced and cooed on my hip. I have no clue what his baby babble sounds like from any other baby’s.

Nostalgia for things I haven’t experienced is hooking me a bit. I feel guilty for my choice and for moving on with my life. In my mind it seems like I’m trying to get away from his memory by doing this…by allowing myself to go on. I’ve felt twinges of guilt for feeling joy and hope over the last few months. Normalcy seems like betrayal. So going on with life as if he never happened and then perhaps developing relationships that could further take him off my mind–it all (however irrational) seems treasonous.

i can’t be his mother and I can’t be in limbo longing to be his mother. I’m not his mother?

Who knows. This is probably another excuse to be afraid of all the potentially beautiful, potentially disappointing, and potentially life changing conditions that have started rolling. But as I make trips to the city I’m moving to and plan and regroup, I picture this one year old little boy with big, gorgeous brown eyes peeping at me…I’m starting to realize I’m fairly haunted by a living child. Is what I’m doing or going to do worth the exchange? Is what I’m about to embark on a fair trade? Am I doing enough to make that decision worth it??

Egoism of the Control Freak

I’ve had plenty to distract me from my pity party lately. Funny how I feel guilty for having enough going on that I don’t dwell on Max. He’s on my mind all the time, but lately tucked further back than usual. I guess the guilt comes from feeling like I’m prioritizing things ahead of him. That seems crazy.

It’s summer, so the kids come to the office with me in the morning. As I’m getting situated and getting them quietly settled at their own desks to stay out of the way, I notice my daughter has my phone. She was adding stickers to a hospital photo of Max. Appearing deep in thought, I just let her keep the phone and proceeded on with something else. It didn’t take long for her to start asking questions that were undoubtedly on her mind. She wanted to know who had seen his newer photos. Would we be able to visit? I began to wall off after a few questions because they got impossible to answer. I clearly need to make her understand that we have no claim on her little brother. It’s aggravating to me that I didn’t put further thought into their views of this decision.

Being aggravated is truly pointless. What’s done is done. I’m saying that not trying to take the defeated approach, but because there’s literally nothing I can do to make amends. For whatever reasons I chose to go through with it all, it’s irreversible. And even if I could take it back, I’m having trouble accepting all the changes that would have called for. The domino effect of either decision seems to go on infintely. Though the a-parents probably couldn’t imagine having another child in their arms, that’s what would have happened…and they wouldn’t have been able to imagine any other child but that one. Had I kept Max, I wouldn’t have had a vicious cycle of emotional self abuse. But I would still have some emotional battles…guilt, anxiety, and the balm of love. I always come out swinging when I feel bottomed out. But I really don’t know the depth or the adversity that would have arisen with raising a third child alone. I have learned to trust my instincts, but this time it’s always going to pull at me due to the nature of the situation.

The kids seem to bring him up a little less. A little. But when they do, it gets to me in a different way than when Max ambles across my mind. Because it means that they were thinking of him. It means there are things that they dwell on, too. I certainly don’t like the idea of passing on what I feel and have felt to children. The prolonged sense of wonder, I’ve noted before, is a lot to take on for a grown woman. I don’t like that I’ve misguidedly put them in the position to always wonder. But I defintely couldn’t and wouldn’t have lied to them to try to curtail the consequences. That would have made it worse.

This is an ego blow of massive proportions. I feel like I can do damn near anything else I want to do….this is one thing I’m not sure about. Coping. Dealing appropriately. I don’t like not being sure. I hate it. It may be strange to be 29 years old and feel so assured of every other decision I could make, but I do. This puts a chink in my armor. It proves there is a flaw in my process and ability and decision making…which makes everything else wavy. The control freak in me is battered.

Anxiety Downgrade

I moved my bed and found the adoption documents I’d hidden before I wanted anyone to know I was even pregnant. The parent profiles were there. I swaddled myself in blankets and began reading them again. I feel like a psychopath for not realizing sooner in my negativity tirade that I had chosen Max’s parents for a reason…that they were exactly as they read on paper. Candid, loving, open, and real. I really like them. They love my baby and I think he has a good chance of blooming as a part of their family.

I had been analyzing all these ridiculous things. Now having said that I hate Max’s new name, I would feel awful for that name to be from someone who helped mold either one of them into the people they are today.

Though I tried to clarify that I don’t resent them, it’s pretty obvious that I’m jealous of them. Besides having a great family and relationship, they get to have the precious moments with my child that I’ll miss. I don’t feel like I chose to give up those parts of Max’s life. I feel like I chose to ensure that he had a good life. Even though I was raised in a home with both parents, I know how it feels to not have a connection or to be unsure if one parent even cares about you. And after my first two children began asking about their estranged father plus Max’s father being so willing to disconnect, I did not want that for him.

Had I kept Max, I would have made sure his basic needs were met. I’d have done everything I could to make him happy, but there’s something very fundamental and beneficial about being a part of a loving two-parent household. While I don’t feel like Max’s older brother and sister are lacking much by not having their father around, they are missing out on having the balance and love of a second parent. As a single parent I will defend any man or woman who has been left to care for a child or children on their own; it’s tough. But having the easily identifiable difference in the warmth of the relationship I had with my dad and the coldness of the relationship I had with my mother, I realized how much it sucks to have a parent (either in the house or out) that you’re not sure where you fit in with. This thought also lead to the anxiety I had of Max becoming an adoptee. Even if his a-parents love him to the moon and back, I know that adoptees wonder about their biological roots. I want him to be sure that I love him very much. I don’t want to have to explain that I don’t think his biological father has a heart to even make him capable of loving another person.

With Max’s new family, there’s a great history to their love and it’s obvious that their love hasn’t stagnated at all… I am glad that he has that as a base and not a story like his siblings to dwell on. The story of mommy and daddy’s love, your name, what type of relationships your parents had with their own parents, and the lifestyle your parents live have significant impacts on how you develop and grow. From what you learn from those instances to how you behave based on those things to how the world around you responds to the formers, development is key.

I’m never going to stop missing Maxton or wondering what I’m missing in his growth. I’ll always have a feeling of guilt, shame, and fear for what has been (for me to come to the decision of adoption) and what could be (as a result of the adoption). There is no doubt in my mind that he was meant to be in this world. So many things along the journey of my pregnancy made that glaringly clear. The way he came into this world wide-eyed and conscious of nearly everything around him also made that clear to me. No matter what my heart wanted that day or the day he went home with his new family, I did what was best for him. Keeping him would have been what was best for me, but as I learned with parenting my first two children, parents come after the kids. And I have to make sure that my emotions are not misdirected at people who were just fulfilling functions of their own lives.

Name Stigma

I have always been fascinated with people. Ever since I was a child, I’d watch people’s behaviors and actions and would subconsciously find ways to classify or sort them. Everyone does this, really, but I made it into a quiet hobby. It was thrilling for me to discover into my young adulthood that things like quality of tattoos, hairstyles, fidgeting, and names could all carry some weight (however small) in how a person developed. Some things were inconsequential, but others seemed to resonate easily with me. Names seem to have broad impact on people, so I was quite particular when selecting my eight and six-year olds’ names at birth. I even went through the trouble of selecting names that were traditional and modern so that they could choose to go by their first or middle name if it suited their personality better.

Yes, I’m a classic analyzer. And I’m pretty good with it until it’s time for me to date, but that’s another story….fact is, when someone introduces themself by name we may or may not have a connection that strikes positive or negative. Just like with a song, that name can cause a person’s eyes to soften in relative comfort or glaze over. It’s amazing how subtly or obvious a human reacts to a difference in name like Isabel versus Kiki.

Between my 3,500 high school student body, life, work, and all kinds of situations that required me to know a name and face, I felt like I got a good feel of my name game. Now, to be clear, while I do put some stock in my name analysis, it is NOT to the extent that I write someone off or immediately love them on that basis.

As the months rolled by during my pregnancy with my third child, I still sat down and heavily pondered the name I knew he’d only have (legally) for about six months. My social worker had mentioned that sometimes adoptive parents kept the birth mother’s chosen name in some form, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. In fact, within five minutes of the baby being born the adoptive parents were standing confused among my immediate family’s open-mouthed stares in response to not only their selected first name for the baby, but their last name as well.

As it so happened, there were a few coinky dinks….the adoptive parents (whose last name had previously been under lock and key) have the same uncommon last name as my stepfather and his family. This was a pleasant surprise and seemed like a “good omen”. However, the first name left me quickly interrupting my very outspoken mother to say, “MOM, don’t you say ANYTHING!”

My mom, dad, sisters, children, and a friend of mine were all in on the obvious taboo that occurred with their totally innocent selection. They had inadvertently named the baby after the abusive monster I’d run away from while pregnant with my now six-year-old. There was known contempt for the name with the baby’s biological father as well. To say that I hated the name was a severe understatement. But their reaction to my hushing my mother and the fallen faces of six people seemed to hurt them a little and I never mentioned to them why we reacted that way.

On top of a range personal connections with other men/boys with this name, I couldn’t recall anyone notable with the name that was anything that I’d like to link to a child. The name broadly aligned with pretentious, egotistical, and unsavory individuals.

Over the next day or so after delivery, I swallowed my pride and put on a smile. I decided to put faith in the fact that these two people who would raise my baby were honest and good people who would prove my name analyzing to be mere superstition. As time continues to tick by, I find myself thinking about his name more. Especially with the oddly timed resurfacing of the ultimate negative namesake…the circumstances of him contacting me didn’t make me feel any better, either. In fact, his callous demands made me all the more positive that I wouldn’t be able to call Max by his new name without flinching.

Sometimes the mental battle seems childish, and in others, I seemed to get further confirmation that I didn’t want the baby to be affected negatively by a moniker that seemed to be connected to a lot of men who went out of their way to present themselves upwardly and were actually dishonest, mean-spirited, and ruthless. No matter how I feel, I wouldn’t chance insulting anyone for their decision. For all I know, the name was chosen after someone in either of their families and I certainly don’t want to run the risk of insulting a loved one’s character.

Usually my name game has nothing more than superficial meaning/weight to me…but in regard to a child it’s immediately far more serious. I refer to my first two with their modern first names and traditional middle names and see two children who don’t fit any broad mold. Strangers don’t ask their names and immediately connect them to someone else they knew/know, but aren’t so thrown off by the names to think them strange. To me, it seems they have the ability to carve out who they are. Unlike with me…I have a name that has a lot of connotations readily attached. Anyone over the age of 45 immediately knows what my mother’s favorite motion picture was. Due to subconscious and outward assessment of names, people and society tend to place notions and expectations on people based on a slew of letters and sounds. I openly accept my use of name analysis, but I rarely make outward assessments of those names or change my behavior toward someone without any further grounds.

Though “Max” is a common name, the full name I gave him is of English origin. Phonetically, it was natural sounding enough to seem average, but was uncommon enough for there to be little chance of familiarity…good OR bad. When introduced, I think it’s important for someone to have to rely more on what’s in front of them than what they have learned by association over time. I wholeheartedly hope my little one can grow into his own and not the shadow of all the so-and-sos of past and present….because that’s just plain scary.

Or maybe this is classic me (my namesake coincidentally has this awful habit as well) over thinking the situation. I’ll resist the urge to toss in a Shakespeare quote about roses and names….

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….