I Met Them

I just want to mark here that I did in fact, meet my Uncle J, Aunt L and Uncle B. I met Uncle J and Aunt L's son and his family. It was a strange weekend of seriously hopped up anxiety, but they are all lovely people, and it was nice to connect.

Both my brother and I flew into Boston and then stayed at the same hotel near their house. It was nice to connect with him after the huge fight we had the last time I stayed at his house. I think that the work I've been doing since then has allowed me to really start being vulnerable in general and I was able to talk to him about my experiences with Stretch Guy, my mom, and all the other stuff I'm currently doing without inciting another fight. This time, I was able to come at it from the perspective, of "this is how I feel when this happens" vs. "She does this, this and this and I can't stand it". So yeah, I have made progress. I talked about how going to our half-brother's graduation triggered me in a huge way and sent me seriously spiraling out of control, and I think for the first time, he understood. 

I haven't wanted/felt the desire to write about the experience because I'm still processing. It was a quick 4 day trip, 2 of which are travel, and I shut down after I got back. I was lethargic, didn't feel like getting back into my usual routine of morning gym-time and only managed one yoga class and one short bike ride in the week following. Instead of forcing myself to get back into the routine, I rode the wave, and focused a little bit more on my infant-stage meditation practice (I randomly think, hey I should try to meditate and then I do it for 10 minutes then forget about it for the next few days to weeks....). The other reason why I didn't feel like writing is because I'm so deep into emotional work, that all I want to do is throw up on the page about those experiences to help me work through them.

So, I met them. They are nice. I'll plan on sending Christmas cards. I don't know where to go from here...

I now have an understanding of what it's like to meet family of origin 40 years later. I wanted to, I was curious, but what does the relationship look like from here?  I have no idea.

0.5 #NaBloPoMo Day 12 - When is the Weekend Over?

I really don't know what to write today. I mean, I have ideas, but not the mental capacity to do it. Do you ever get like that? Part of it is that I'm completely drained by the last few days off, and wishing for the days pre-kid when days off where fucking days OFF. Self care during the holidays is really difficult and I've been putting pressure on myself to do more family activities instead of the divide and conquer technique we've been taking. 

Today, we decided to visit a state park for a picnic lunch and some hiking followed by going to see the movie Co.co. The state park visit was frustrating considering that we took the kids hiking when we were in the mountains a few weeks ago and they were gung-ho, but today they were whiny on a simple gravel flat path. We liked the movie and it is gratifying that we could take X to a movie where all the characters look like him. Fair warning though, it is chock full of triggers, especially for adoptees. Abandonment is a running theme along with emphasis on families always being there for one another. I had a feeling that the movie was going to be like that after reading pretty in-depth review, and was ready for the themes, but I wasn't ready for it to trigger me. I needed a box of tissues that I didn't have...

Anyway, tomorrow there may or may not be a family bike ride. Or maybe I'll just get on my bike by myself for a couple hours. *sigh*

The Fading Pain

X received a birthday card from S's aunt. This birthday card came in the same envelope with another birthday card.

S was confused for a minute, and turned to me kind of laughing. At first, I think he thought his aunt got Baby Z's birth date wrong.  Staring at the envelope with the name on it, it took a few seconds to sink in.

"Happy Birthday Axton."

Now, the realization that said aunt is totally clueless about our family could have hit me like a ton of bricks, but it didn't. Brick, by brick by brick, little by little I broke down.

1st reaction: You've gotta be kidding me.

2nd reaction: Is she that stupid?

3rd reaction: I need to sit down on the bed for a minute and then I can join the rest of the family for dinner.

4th reaction: Sobbing at the dinner table.

I was surprised at how hard it hit me, considering that I really don't think about Axton much. Every now and then, I come across pictures that I can't seem to delete from my computer and I wonder what he's like. At this point, 3 years removed from the failed placement, the acute pain has faded, yet, I can still be brought back to the phone call I received right after snuggling down in the couch for some kangaroo care and guilty pleasure TV on my first day of maternity leave.

It's like that for infertility too. When in the grips of infuriating cycles resulting in BFNs; invasive testing; invasive homestudies; long adoption waits; failed placement; failed match; it seems like nothing will ever feel the same again. It feels like the pain will haunt forever. Except that it doesn't. I wonder if everyone going through this experiences the same trajectory. It's just not at the forefront of my mind, and pregnant women elicit more of a 'gee they're lucky' response instead of the 'that fucking bitch has no idea how lucky she is response' I used to have. 

The biggest issue I have right now is wondering if I might magically get pregnant when I don't want to (S is a big fat chicken who won't make his appointment). I obsessively track my cycles hoping for a period to show up, and I don't think about infertility much....is what I was going to say until I realized that hoping for a period every month is an indication that I still have, and will always have emotional issues related to infertility until I hit menopause full bore. Obviously, I need to push S again on his OUTPATIENTNOBIGDEAL procedure because I'm afraid to get busy around ovulation. I haven't wanted to get pregnant after adoption, and even explored the idea, going so far as another R.E. consultation during our wait for Baby Z. Suffice to say, I have been deep into my own psyche trying to figure out if I really needed to be pregnant, but as I said when I first decided on adoption as a option, I wanted to be a parent more than I wanted to push a kid out. Funny how that now translates to the idea of a positive pregnancy test being the worst news ever. I'm 42, and have been off of birth control for almost 10 years at this point, never saw a positive pregnancy test and perhaps had one chemical pregnancy. Chances are slim to none that I'll ever get pregnant, but I still have a weird what if knocking around my head.

Since infertility I've also pushed my body harder than ever by participating in 100-mile bike rides, and most recently joining a gym that pushes me to the edge every single workout. It's like I do these things to remind myself that body still works despite not ever working in the most basic of ways.

The pain fades, but it never goes away.

 

 

 

 

Why am I the only brown person in this family?

I was reading the book Ron's Big Mission, a book that I, as a white woman, can't get through without the white tears spilling all over the damn place. The story is about a little boy who is black growing up in South Carolina in 1959 and the day he took a stand at his local library demanding that he be able to check out books.

The positive side of reading these kinds of age appropriate books to my kids is that it provides an opening to a dialogue. X has flirted with discussion about skin color, but hadn't expressed dismay over his skin color compared to the rest of his family and extended family. He did this particular night, and we had what I hope was a good talk about how it's different even though it shouldn't be, and how it will be hard for him. I pointed out his other friends who are the only POC in their families, and he pointed out that a black kid at his school doesn't have white parents.  I also pointed out that his therapist is an adoptee, like him, and she was adopted from India.  She will understand why he feels uncomfortable sometimes and that he can talk to her about it as much as he wants. He can tell us all his big feelings too, and we'll do the best we can to help him.

The moment that I've been dreading as a parent has come, and whether I should have or not, I admitted that maybe Mommy and Daddy made a mistake when we adopted Baby Z. That maybe we should have waited longer for a baby who had brown skin like X so that he wouldn't feel so alone in our family. I don't know how that will ultimately play out, if X will resent Baby Z, or if admitting that was the right thing to do. I rationalized the placement by thinking, well, we've been waiting for almost 2 years and we've now been matched with 3 white boys despite our openness to race. I guess we can navigate this, because lots of other families do whether one kid is lighter skinned than the other, or whether there are multiple children of different races in the family. On the other hand, I know families that draw that line and say, my kids need other kids who look like them in the family. I don't know why I didn't draw the line, but I admit it was selfish to just want to be done with the process instead of being a forward thinker to years down the road. 

If I begin to think about the fact that we were open to adopting a baby of a different race to us in the first place, I begin to wonder if that was a good decision. When we were going through the process the first time, it was made abundantly clear to us that if we wanted to adopt a white baby, we'd be waiting a very long time. Considering it took 2 years of waiting to be matched with X, it's hard to think about waiting even longer. We were naive when it came to race relations today and we've both been woke to how far there is to go, especially in today's political climate. I'd say that despite the adoption agency we worked with being pretty good in terms of preparation for the realities of adoption trauma even in infants, they miss the mark on adopting children of a different race. I don't know that it would have changed anything for us given the length of both of our adoption waits, and in X's case, he likely would have been adopted by a white family because that's the harsh reality of adoption. White people typically have the means to pay for expensive adoptions. Adoption is inherently racist, taking brown kids from brown families and putting them into white families because we theoretically are better. I call bullshit. We aren't better, we have the upper hand when it comes to everything. 

 

If You Have a Child Of Color Who is Adopted

Things that should be high on your to-do list right now: 

1) Get them a passport and make copies for you and your child to carry at all times.  

2) If they are an international adoptee, make sure you have their citizenship papers. Read here for more information: 

I can't believe I'm writing this.  

Point of View

Often, as adoptive parents, we rely on fellow adoptive parents and adoption agencies to teach us about adoption. That's comforting and validating, but it leaves out 2/3 of the equation: first parents and adoptees. In my own journey through adoption I've found some resources where the PV (point of view) of adoptees and first parents is brought to the forefront. This is an uncomfortable place to be given the multiple views on adoption and transracial adoption in particular. When I become squirmy, I tell myself that it signals growth to face my own biases and work through what makes me uncomfortable in order to be more present and available to my kids and their needs.

I invite you to invite uncomfortableness into your life and check out these important views.

Another Version   - Danielle is a birthmother who blogs about everything from her adoption story, her family, and feminism.

Lost Daughters  - A consortium of adoptees sharing their thoughts on adoption. An awesome one-stop for varying stories from domestic private, foster, international and transracial adoptions. 

Adoption and Birthmothers (aka Musings of the Lame) -  I will point anyone thinking about adoption to this site for an education on what adoption really is vs. what the agencies tell us.

The adopted ones blog  - Two adoptees from the baby scoop era started a blog. 

Harlow's Monkey  - JaeRan Kim, a Korean adoptee, and Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Washington blogs about her experience at this site, and also has a professional site https://jaerankim.com

Transracial Adoption Perspectives - A Facebook group where the PV of transracial adoptees is front and center. White Adoptive Parents (WAPs) are invited to engage in order to learn. It can be a challenging place to be for WAPs, and this is where learning to sit with uncomfortableness comes to play.

 

 

p.s. Happy American Thanksgiving, whatever that means considering it signals when White people started pushing Native people off their land. Are you uncomfortable? I am.

 

How My Views on Adoption Have Changed

November is National Adoption Month.

I used to think that was awesome, a way to help educate the masses on how great adoption is.

That was then. This is now.

I have mixed feeling about adoption now that I've been through the process twice and have experienced every adoptive parent's nightmare of failed matches, including taking a baby home only to have his mother change her mind a few days later. But this isn't about me, it's about my kids and how they are affected by the decisions that were made for them, in situations where if the system were set up differently, they could have been raised by their first parents. While I don't doubt for a second that under this current system, my kids would have been adopted no matter if we were there or not, I'm not sure it means that everything is copacetic. We have an open adoption with X's first mom and in the last 5 years, I've learned a lot about the pain of a mother who has had to make a sacrifice through no choice of her own. I've seen firsthand how she wants badly to know her child, but every time she sees him, is reminded of the situation she found herself in; is reminded how she was not allowed to be a parent. Baby Z's mother doesn't want to know him except through the removed medium of letters and pictures. The situations are different, the people are different, and the decisions are different, but I venture to guess that the pain is not different. They choose to face it in their own ways.

I love my kids, and my love for my kids has no bearing on my conflicted feelings about how I came to be their parent. That doesn't mean I need to be happy about the system that brought them to us. I can't help but wonder, if adoption hadn't been so easy, would we have children? We would have gone the IVF route if the lure of adopting a baby hadn't been marketed so effectively. Who knows if that would have been successful, and maybe we would have had to accept the fact that we would be a family of 2 plus dog. Adoption marketing permeates our entire society painting the adoptive parent as "saviors" of the children who need families. But how many of those children really need families?  They already have families, and often the situations that lead to adoption are temporary.

 

Update on: Be Careful What You Search For

A therapy session in which I talked about what I found to my therapist helped me to realize that I am so good at operating in black/white terms that I always forget the shades of gray surrounding every interaction. She thought it appropriate to contact the adoption agency about what I had discovered as it was public news (just public news I came across months later), but yes, agreed we don't say anything in our letters since Baby Z's mom has been holding strong to her desire to keep us at arms length.

I didn't contact the agency as the initial shock and grief wore off quickly and S and I decided that this is news we share with Baby Z because it may help to explain why she may never want contact with him, or at the very least it's a tiny piece of a bigger puzzle. I still got the itch to try to do some more digging though, because (let's face it), I'm nosy until I find an answer. Thankfully, I found what looks like positive news.

I probably won't stop the searching every now and then, gathering the data for Baby Z in the future, but I sure will be ready for anything when I do it.

Be Careful What You Search For

I've been frustrated that Baby Z's firstmom hasn't sent us a picture or a letter. She promised to send those things 2 years ago and ever since then there's been nothing. I've asked the adoption agency multiple times and they said she promised to send them. She's even spoke at the agencies classes for the adoptive parent training, but hasn't dropped off a picture while she's been there. 

I finally reached a level of frustration that I hadn't experienced before and after sending a scathing email to hers and our caseworkers gave into the lure of searching via the interwebs for social media pictures. We aren't supposed to know her last name, but do because when you're in the hospital, the baby has the mother's last name legally. It was laughable when they redacted all our paperwork, but what were they going to do about the wristband and discharge papers that were sent directly to the pediatrician's office?

So, I did it. And instead of finding a Facebook or Instagram page that I could swipe a picture from, I ran head on into tragedy. The unthinkable had happened and I can't tell anyone what it is and how it affects us as a family because she clearly didn't want us to know. 

I have violated her privacy and S and I have to bear the burden of knowledge alone. 

Someday, we'll tell Baby Z what I discovered on a random Sunday Google search. Meanwhile, we grieve....what? It doesn't directly affect us. This isn't our family and it isn't our business because she has been clear that she doesn't want contact. We are shocked and saddened, and we can't tell anyone else what we've found. 

If you think that a simple Internet search will reveal the information you want, think again of the potential consequences. Sometimes the lines are drawn and we as adoptive parents may not understand why. Sometimes we need to respect the boundary even if we're upset that it feels like our kid loses out. There are many people in this journey and they don't always want what we want. 

 

 

What About Naming?

I came across a question on a transracial adoption FB group: Did you change your child's name? Keep your child's name? Name your child?  This is paraphrased from the original question.

I came across this post on Lainey Gossip (Jjiraffe mentioned her in a post once and I got hooked!)  Can You Choose a Name First? The question comes from a prospective adoptive parent going through the process a second time. As explained in the letter, with their first child, they met the first parents prior to birth, collaborated on the name, and now the child has a name that all 4 parents agreed upon. Pretty cool situation, I think! Not knowing what the next situation will look like, they are in the process of pulling together some names they like to be ready for similar discussions, should the situation be similar in that they meet parents who want to be involved in the naming of their child. I'd also like to add that I like the tone of this letter and the acknowledgement that the first family is ever present in their child's life. (wonder if they read Lori's book?)

Neither S nor I had strong feelings about family names, other than using my maiden name as a middle name. No one in my family or his really follows any naming conventions, at least for first names, plus we aren't the types to feel beholden to any family traditions, preferring instead to make our own.

Baby X

We had started thinking about names early in our waiting process (when we didn't realize it was going to take 2 years) and had actually settled on Calvin as a top pick, with Seth not far behind. Well, then an acquaintance of ours used Calvin for their son and it was ruined for me. I couldn't bear being thought of a baby-name-stealer.  So, Seth became my front runner partially because I don't hear it a whole lot and I thought saddling a kid with a really similar name to Seth McFarlane would be hilarious. S didn't exactly agree with me, but he didn't have any other ideas. There were girl names too, but they're hardly worth talking about because we never landed on a girl's name that we both liked, so yay for only being matched with boys?

After we received news of our match, we reviewed our list of names and S added one. Given that most of the names trended toward English/Irish origins, I felt like they didn't fit given Baby X's Asian Indian/Latino heritage. There was one that I liked better than the others, and we played around with that, another name, and S's last-minute name to the mix.

When we met with the adoption agency for the formal presentation of the situation, we found out that Baby X's mom didn't want to name him, then at the last minute before being discharged decided she did. The name was the same one S wrote down 2 days prior. That was it, she named him, and we liked it. Done, and done. (ok, so, we spent a couple hours that night debating before making a final decision.)

Baby A

Baby A was the baby we were placed with, took home, and three days later the placement fell through. For his name, we were at a total loss. His parents (mom really, dad was less than enthusiastic) had no (supposedly) opinion when it came to names, and asked us to name him. His older sister had an unusual name, and I wanted his name to match hers. It also had to match Baby X's to some extent. After a ton of research over 2 weeks because none of our list felt right, I discovered Axton listed at 1,000 on some baby list. Since I had been waffling around and kind of landed on Ashton (but then kept thinking of Ashton Kut.cher douchebag...), this felt like a cool choice. It actually had a meaning other than someone-threw-an-x-in-this-name-to-make-it-cool so it felt like a real name.  I have no idea if she kept it. Oh, and weird thing, the hospital photographer, a young 20-something, knew someone name Axton. Go figure.

Baby N

We were only matched with Baby N for a week before his father decided to file for paternity. His mother had named him before being discharged from the hospital, and we felt like we should keep the name. It helped that it was a name that we both liked, but we had agreed by this time, that we would feel weird re-naming any baby who already had a name.

Baby Z

Baby Z was a totally different story in the naming department. Once again, we had lists going, but it turned out that even though we could have totally used Calvin or Seth at this point (having lost contact with the couple who used Calvin), neither one of them seemed to fit.  I kept feeling like the first kid was supposed to be one of those names and they had become a running joke. In addition, names that we had like 3 years prior lost their luster and we had trouble coming up with a new list. Baby Z's mother wanted us to name him and in our two meetings did not express any opinions one way or another.

When it came down to it, we had a couple names we liked and then came across the name we ultimately chose. Again, Irish/Gaelic/English didn't seem to fit given his mom's identification with being German, and I guess we have a thing that we like to give our kids names that are of their heritage and not particularly popular.

Funny thing about that name, it was one that I was nervous about people thinking we chose because we are big fans of ----.  Which, yes, I like this particular person's work, but it's not like my house is plastered in it. Anyway, I got over that pretty quick when I started to realize that there are way more people who don't know who that person is. Kind of a shocking discovery, really, because I thought it was ubiquitous, but at least I'm not constantly explaining. What I do end up having to do is repeat the name more than once because it is pretty unusual.

So, that's all our naming stories. How did you come up with your kids' names? Not necessarily adoption related, I'm curious how other people approach naming, and whether the names your children ultimately end up with are the names you originally thought you'd choose.