Friday, April 27, 2012

Five for Friday: Trauma

I think about trauma a lot, because, well, trauma and foster-adoption pretty much go hand in hand. I actually believe (though not everyone agrees with me) that there's a traumatic aspect to all adoptions, but add the various complications that can accompany a child's journey into and through foster care (abuse, neglect, bouncing from home to home, psychiatric hospitalizations, etc.) and, well, you get the picture. By the time these kids arrive in their foster-adoptive homes, they've often developed a whole arsenal of survival techniques that don't necessarily serve them well when the goal is connection and adjustment rather than mere survival.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Open Adoption Roundtable #37: After a Visit

Open Adoption Blogs

The latest Roundtable prompt at Open Adoption Bloggers is "How do you feel after a visit?" Here's my response:

My feelings after a visit are mainly a response to whatever is going on for Ashley. They are secondary to hers, which is as it should be, because it's not really about me. My role, post visit, is one of support.

We've had times when the post-visit period has been difficult. I've written about that here and here and here. But even when it's difficult, I recognize that it's all just part of the process for Ashley. I strongly believe that when adoptive parents walk through a difficult post-visit period with their adopted child, following the child's lead and being present and available to offer whatever support is needed, they participate in the child's healing process in an important way.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Confessions of a Double Dipper

"Double Dipper." That's a phrase I encountered once on an another adult adoptee's blog in reference to people like me who have more than one connection to adoption; specifically, adoptees who adopt, adoptees who place, and first parents who later adopt. It was not intended as a compliment.

My particular category, adoptees who adopt, must seem incomprehensible to some adult adoptees and first parents. I am not someone who holds a roses-and-sunshine view of adoption. I have experienced the pain of adoption from my own side of things, and I am not blind to the pain on the first family side of the equation. I see the need for reform in all areas of adoption. I believe that family preservation should be a higher societal priority than it currently is. So, what would possess someone like me to affiliate myself an institution I criticize.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Missing Mackenzie

My older daughter Mackenzie is in another state at the moment. She is spending the week visiting her biological father, my ex, who moved away when Mackenzie was a year and a half old. I'm glad that she's having this time with him, and I know that she's safe and enjoying herself. I also see the benefits for Ashley, my younger daughter. It's good for these sisters to have occasional time away from each other; absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the say. It also gives Ashley a chance to be an only child, temporarily -- to have Paul and me all to herself, if only for a short while. She seems to be enjoying it, soaking up the attention.

There isn't anything about the situation that I am unhappy with or want to change. And yet, I also miss Mackenzie. I have moments when I miss her with an almost surprising intensity. I'll be driving my car or in the midst of some menial household task, seemingly not thinking about her at all, and suddenly, there it is: a deep, primal ache, tinged with mother-bear alertness. Something is very wrong; my baby isn't with me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Five for Friday: Five People I Thought About Today

  • My first mother
  • My second mother
  • My first daughter
  • My second daughter
  • My second daughter's first mother


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Adoption Blog Hop

If you are a blogger who touches any part of the elephant of adoption, please consider listing your blog in the blog hop currently being hosted by Adoption Magazine.

Who can enter this blog hop?

Anyone affected by adoption.

What are the rules?

Other than being respectful when visiting each other’s sites, there are no rules.

Please click here and add your site.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Whole Elephant: Why All Adoption Stories Matter

Do you know the Buddhist story about five wise people and the elephant. A king brings an elephant into his thrown room. Then he brings in five "wise" people, who all happen to be blind. He positions them such that each is touching a different part of an elephant. He tells them they are touching something called an elephant and asks them to tell him what it is like. You probably can guess the rest. Each describes one part of the elephant, and then they fall to arguing about who is right.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Open Adoption Roundtable 36: Agreements

Open Adoption Blogs

The most recent Open Adoption Roundtable Prompt is as follows: "Write about open adoption agreements. Is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?"

Here is my response to this prompt:

The most significant thing that I want to express about my post-adoption agreement with Erica, my daughter's first mother, is that although it provides some protections to my husband and myself, as well as to Erica, and, most importantly, to our daughter, it is only a starting point. It is not the glue that holds us together. Our real commitment to openness is not on paper; it is in how we live.

To illustrate that point, I'd like to share a story about something that happened on the first visit following the finalization of Ashley's adoption from foster care:

Our contract was adapted from a template suggested by our social worker and contains some fairly standard language stipulating that the agreement will be invalidated if Erica fails to show up for a certain number of visit. So, how do you suppose I responded when Erica arrived late for that first visit?

Here's how it could have played out. Nothing obligated us to wait for her. I could have left before she arrived. Erica would have lost her visit and ended up with one strike against her.

Here's what actually happened. Erica woke up that morning absolutely certain that she knew where she was supposed to meet us. (We had arranged to meet at a local roller rink.) She drove to the meeting place on time, presumably happily anticipating a visit with her daughter. She arrived at what she thought was the designated meeting place only to discover that she was not in the right location. (Anything like that ever happened to you? Yeah, me too.) You can imagine her panic. Worse, she had NO way to contact us. Our contract says that my husband and I will maintain a P.O. Box for Erica to use to communicate with us; at this point in our relationship, we had progressed to email, but I had not yet shared my cell phone number with her. She had no means of letting me know she was on her way.

Meanwhile, Ashley and I waited at the roller rink. I can honestly tell you that I had no desire to leave before Erica arrived. I wanted this visit to go well, with every fiber of my being. I was prepared to deal with the visit and with some degree of visit backlash, but I was not prepared to spend the afternoon supporting and putting back together a child who was crushed and heartbroken about a visit that didn't happen ... though, of course, that's what I would have done if necessary.

The roller rink we were at had an arcade area. Normally, I'm reluctant to spend the extra money on the games, but on this day I kept handing Ashley money for tokens so she could distract herself as we waited. As for myself, I sat there, eyes on the door, willing Erica to walk through it.

Eventually she did, and you can hardly imagine two women who were more relieved to see each other. Our immediate, instinctive response was to fall into each others arms in a true embrace. When we released from our hug, we looked up to see Ashley standing there, looking at us. It was her first glimpse of her two mothers together.

You might guess that that was a significant moment in my relationship with Erica, and it was -- but more importantly, it was an pivotal moment in my relationship with Ashley. That was the moment she stopped pushing me away, that the wall that she had erected between us out of loyalty to Erica crumbled. That was the moment she realized that she didn't have to choose, that if her two mothers loved each other, it was okay for her to love both of us, too. 

I realize the request was to write about open adoption agreements and I've barely mentioned ours. But in a way, that's the way it should be. Open adoption agreements are important, and I believe, above all, that they should be legally enforceable documents, not meaningless pieces of paper. But open adoption relationships are just that -- relationships. They ask much more of us than our signatures. 

Please visit Open Adoption Bloggers to read more responses to this prompt.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Five For Friday: Passover

One of the religions followed in my home is Judaism, and tonight we will be celebrating Passover. As part of the Seder ritual, we will read the story of the Exodus, including the following passages about the birth of Moses (from Lynn Lebow Nadeau's Promise Land Haggadah):
One pharaoh was afraid of [the Hebrew] people, who remained strangers in his land. He commanded the midwives to kill every newborn Hebrew…. One day, a [Hebrew] slave woman named Yocheved gave birth to a healthy boy. She put him in a little ark she wove of papyrus reeds and hid him in the tall grasses. Her young daughter, Miriam, waited by the river, and when the time was right, pushed the ark downstream so it floated right in front of the pharaoh's daughter.

The Torah tells us that the pharaoh's daughter sent her slave girl to fetch him. She took the baby home and named him Moses, which in Hebrew means "he who is pulled out."

Miriam quickly came out of the reeds and said that the baby needed a milk mother, and suggested she ask Yocheved to nurse him. And so, Moses was brought up as a prince in the palace by the daughter of the pharaoh and his own mother.
Last year during Passover, I found myself wondering about the pharaoh's daughter. How did she respond when Moses returned to his original family, becoming a leader of the Hebrew people? So I did an online search and learned some interesting things. Here are five things that have been said about the pharaoh's daughter, according to Jewish tradition (at least, as reported at and Wikipedia):
1) She was called Bithiah, from "bat" ("daughter") and "Yah" ("God").
2) God said to her, "You have called Moses your son, although he was not your son, therefore I will call you my daughter, although you are not my daughter."
3) Though she was an Egyptian first-born, she was not affected by the tenth plague; she was spared because of Moses' prayers.
4) When Moses and the Israelites fled from Egypt, Bithiah went with them.
5) She converted to Judaism and married into the tribe of Judah.
What interests me, but isn't shared as part of the story, is what the relationship was like between Moses' two mothers, Bithiah and Yocheved. At what point did Bithiah become aware that the wet nurse was the biological mother, and how did she respond? Alas, the writers of the traditional stories did not share my focus on open adoption so I can only speculate.

And I will continue to write my own story of open adoption. Tonight, as we sit down to Seder, there will be a number of adopted people in attendance (myself, my daughters, and at least one other guest), several adoptive parents (including myself), and one birth mother: Erica. Ashley and Mackenzie will spend a good portion of the time away from the table, chasing after Tyler (he's Ashley's biological brother, but Mackenzie adores him, too). Blessings will be said, greens will be dipped, the afikomen (a ceremonial piece of matzoh) will be hidden and found. We will observe traditions that have been passed down through the ages, while at the same time creating traditions of our own.