This is my first year participating in the Open Adoption Interview Project. I was paired with Danielle from Another Version of Mother – she is also a birthmother, but her adoption looks very different from mine. It was wonderful to speak with her and share our stories, and you can read my answers to her questions over at her blog. Don’t forget to stop by Production, Not Reproduction for links to more interviews!
1. Just a couple of basic things: What are the terms of your (semi) open adoption? When was the last time you saw the Kiddo, and what were the circumstances for the visit? How close is he to you, geographically (if you know)? Do you have any contact with his adoptive parents or is everything through the agency?
Right now there are no “technical terms”. Our agreement ran out two years ago almost, and we agreed to continue what we were doing, but it has changed some. The original agreement was letters and pictures once a year. Now we seem to be broaching into new territory with eliminating the agency as the middle man, and talking/sharing on Facebook. We, his parents and I, occasionally talk on Facebook. And I have them both on there. It’s sort of a big step, honestly.
His family actually lives in the same city as I do, which is why I sort of feel even more isolated in terms of how closed the adoption is. They have access to me, and yet, we’re still doing the very archaic pictures and letters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to have even that, but when I know he’s right there, it’s hard. I haven’t interacted with The Kiddo since he was two. I saw him on his eighth birthday, but I was there observing, and was not introduced to him.
2. You placed through the LDS church. Did you also work with an “agency” or was the whole thing just done by the church? How does that work? A really quick breakdown of the power structure would be very interesting – did you have a social worker or anybody else assigned to work with you, personally? Was there ANY separation of the religious angle from the legal side?
LDS Family Services is technically an agency, albeit a very exclusive agency in the realm of adoptive parents. They only take “worthy members from the LDS church, but will take any woman who is pregnant and considering adoption. When I became pregnant, I was whisked away to my Bishop, who informed me that I must go through them, and that’s what was done.
I worked with a “psychologist” though I’m unsure if he really was one now, or if he was just a social worker. We met on a monthly basis, and a lot of our sessions were incredibly religious orientated. I was given a volunteer, who was assigned to me, because that was her “calling” (in the LDS church they give out volunteer positions to fill their organization, and they are called callings). She happened to be a trained Social Worker, and I adored her, but a lot of our conversations and such were very religious. When I tried to assert myself to become a single parent, there was a lot of religious undertones to making that decision. In terms of the legal side, I had no clue what was legal and what was not. Like, the openness agreement- I thought it was LEGAL for years. Actually up until last year, even. So, it was not a thorough process in terms of knowing my rights, because they wanted me to believe I had none.
3. If you could wave a magic wand and make your adoption perfect, what would it look like? Would it even exist?
Ah. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t exist. However, that’s unrealistic. Right now? I would have a great relationship with his parents, and we would embrace each other as family. I would be able to talk to him freely, and as well as his parents. I wish, more than anything, that we could embrace each other like a family welcomes a new spouse or partner into the mix. I am a part of their family, I feel, and I don’t want to negate their roles, but I feel strongly that isolating me absolutely negates my role in the building of their family. So my adoption would be open, and very honest looking.
4. You speak (albeit vaguely, which is understandable) about abuses both physical and emotional that you were subjected to as a child. How did that affect your “decision” (sometimes I feel like it’s a lie to even call it a decision, if you’re not actually given any choices) to place? Did it even factor in? I ask because child abuse is such a hot-button, salacious issue that society often uses as a catch-all for any hardships faced in adulthood. You know: “You were abused as a child? That explains everything!” as opposed to looking at the effects of “less obvious” traumas (like, oh, I don’t know, let’s say being manipulated into placing your firstborn for adoption by a crazy religious order, for example).
It did and it didn’t. I did worry, and I was vocal about this once or twice, about what my family would do to him, if I decided to keep him. They were so against me doing it that I almost felt as though I had to do it to protect him from the nastiness they would throw at us both if I had been able to parent. It went through my mind a lot, honestly. You can’t be abused like that, and not wonder if they’ll continue it on your children. When I had my first parented child, all of this stuff, the abuse, the adoption, sort of came to a head, and I realized how little I knew about parenting because I had no example of what good parenting looked like. I can’t imagine what I would have done when I was 17-18 and trying to parent him by myself. It was a scary realization when I was older and had a partner, so I’m not sure what I would have done at that age.
5. You have children that you parent. As someone who has placed and wants to parent in the future, I am terrified by the prospect of being pregnant and giving birth again because I worry it will bring up all sorts of abandonment triggers – which is a pretty comment fear. How did you do it? How DO you do it? How did it feel to be pregnant with your first parented child – how different was it? I know that there are major, obvious differences (like, you weren’t 17 or alone or being yelled at by Mormons constantly the second time around) but I’m more interested in the way things that were physically the same felt emotionally different when you were pregnant with your parented children.
Be prepared for it to be incredibly triggering. Even in the best situations, it’s still a loss, right? When I took Potato home from the hospital, I sat in the back seat, and without knowing it, sat on the same spot I had when I had gone home from the hospital without The Kiddo. And when I realized it, I peered over at Potato and started bawling. My husband asked me what was wrong, and I managed, “I get to take him home this time”. It was hard, and as Potato grew, I realized how much I actually missed, how much I didn’t see, even the bad parts. And that was difficult to deal with too. You have to realize though, I was still in the fog, and convinced that nothing bad had happened to me. However, the birth of Potato triggered insane anxiety, PTSD, and a lot of stress for me. I had no idea why I was so worried all the time. Even now, I still fear, and am working on this, that someone is going to take my kids from me. It’s hardwired now.
That being said, it does make you appreciate your kids 100 times more. I wouldn’t be the mother I am, if I hadn’t lost The Kiddo, at least I don’t think I would be. When others were upset that their babies weren’t sleeping, I was happy to have sleep deprivation. When I was having to nurse constantly, I was happy that I was even able to breastfeed my child, and watch him grow through my own nourishment. I never, ever take a single moment for granted.
When I was pregnant, I worried a lot. And I became very weepy, and made a lot of comparisons to my pregnancy with The Kiddo. I started reading my journals from back then too, and realized how lonely I had been back then versus now when I had people around me, who were congratulating me etc. It was hard to deal with that aspect of it too. I felt a lot of saddness knowing that all I needed was a partner and an apartment for it to be okay with some people, you know?
5. What is your contingency plan in the event of the inevitable zombie apocalypse? (I’m so serious.)
I would take a bag of our most important things, and make sure we had simple things like matches, lighters, and whatnot from our house. I would fill our tank with gas, and we would drive out of the city. I would likely find a place in the mountains to set up camp, and I would make sure that we brought enough of us, like family and friends that we could set up a sorta society, and fight off swarms of zombies.