May 26, 2013 Enter your password to view comments.
May 24, 2013 § 15 Comments
The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.
In her OAB blog post this week, Kat Cooley wondered if there is some way to predict whether (adoptive and first) parents entering into open adoptions truly understand the importance of openness and are really committed to doing what they can to make it work. She asked readers to comment on what drives them to maintain their open adoption relationships. It sparked some great–still ongoing–conversation in the comments section. I encourage you to read the post and comments for yourself.
Reader Racilous suggested that we continue the conversation in a roundtable, which I thought was a great idea. (And for those of you who left comments on Kat’s column, you already have your roundtable post started!). In Racilous’ words:
Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?
This is my first roundtable. Yay! I never do the OART questions because most of them don’t apply to me. Hearing from his parents once every six months doesn’t give me much to write about–although if they manage to keep up that schedule, I will be surprised. I honestly expect them to feel inconvenienced and start slipping up, sending pictures yearly or not at all.
I do think that the reason this adoption isn’t open is because of “education and expectations,” on my end and theirs. When I filled out the paperwork for the agency, I could check off what kind of openness I wanted. I had to select from the options it gave me, which were quite minimal. The agency seemed to define openness as receiving updates every 6 months or once a year. When I got to the question that asked “until what age would you like to receive updates?”, I checked “other” and wrote “until adulthood.” The list only provided “1 year,” “3 years,” and “5 years” as options. I thought that was strange, and I wondered why I would want to stop hearing about my child just because he was 5 years old.
I thought we (his parents and myself) would handle our relationship independently of the agency and of the agreement–which I erroneously hoped would be a baseline guide for contact–and it was a huge surprise to me when I gave them the baby and found out I would only be contacting them through the agency. I can imagine the agency likes to do things this way, as it might seem more reassuring to adoptive parents.
While I was pregnant, it never concerned me that I wasn’t told their last names or what state they lived in. I figured that was a measure to protect the PAP’s privacy, and once the adoption occurred, we would have each other’s information. I was very wrong. I found all their “identifying information” in a Google search, which might make me a crazy stalker, but I don’t call them or friend them on facebook or travel 2000 miles to sit outside their home.
It was also a huge surprise when I didn’t hear from them after placement. Even though I’d agreed to the six-month updates, I figured that once they’d met me, they would want to get to know me better, or tell me about the baby more often. I’m embarrassed to say that now. How disgustingly naive.
While I was pregnant, I was trained to think of the baby as not mine, and my biological connection to him as meaningless. So I can only imagine how they were trained to think of the baby as theirs. No matter how much they may have liked me, or how much of that was my imagination and their polite manners, it was never the plan to have a relationship with me. Talking to the birthmother isn’t synonymous with “real” parenting. Despite the anger I might seem to have, I don’t actually blame them. I know they are totally uneducated about adoptive parenting and they truly are doing what they think is best for their baby and for themselves. I get it.
Also, I would not be surprised if the agency had told them it’s best to keep an emotional distance and not to “bother” me and stir up grief, or whatever. I wish we were closer so I could ask, because I am curious if the agency has told them anything about me. It’s hard to believe that they would be upfront and honest about not talking to me: “After she went home from the hospital, i texted her the next day to tell her the name you picked out. :) she thought it was so cute!!! We haven’t spoken to her or heard anything since. I’m sure she’s doing great tho!!!! :) :) :)”
Then again, maybe they don’t lie and I simply don’t come up in conversation.
I get a lot of comments that say, “I hope your adoption becomes more open,” and I don’t know if I agree with that. I don’t believe open adoption is the perfect bandage it is built up to be. I would still feel depressed and angry no matter how open of an arrangement there was. Even if I got to play with him on the weekends, it would not change my regret. I do think more communication and a different attitude would make things easier, in some ways. Even the tiniest gestures on their part, things that would cost them nothing, would matter so much to me. Just something like “thinking of you” on Mother’s Day or wishing me a Merry Christmas, or sharing cute stories about the baby, or talking about themselves and how they had a fun weekend, would mean everything.
I no longer sit around hoping for a more open adoption. There were a few months where I did, and I couldn’t stop wondering what was wrong with me that they didn’t want to talk to me. I know not to take it personally now. I have resigned myself to not ever having a relationship with him or with his parents. My one and only hope is that the baby will not be worse off, as he grows up. For a relationship to be more open, they have to want that first. It’s not something I can beg for. I have a lot to lose if I asked for more contact and the answer is no, but they have nothing to lose from making the same request of me.
[Sidenote: There’s always someone who disagrees with me when I say this, and they’ll be like, “No, no, a lot of adoptive parents want more contact too, they’re just too scared to ask.” I know that’s true for some people. I cannot speak for adoptions other than mine. I don’t know about other people’s lives and how it all works. But I know my own situation, and I know they’re not being quiet to please me.]
In summary, I blame the agency for not encouraging communication. I could blame myself for not requesting more contact and openness, but I hardly feel entitled to make requests. C and L are both pleasant, friendly, and humorous, and there were no personality clashes when we met. I felt like we got along amazingly well, in fact, and hoped for closeness. I liked them a lot from their booklet, noticing how many interests we had in common. We met once while I was pregnant, and liked them then, too. I don’t believe the last part of the question applies to us, either. We’ve never had any rifts or offended each other in a manner that would close off the relationship (that I know of). It’s hard to have disagreements when you don’t talk!
One last thing before I end this monster post and go for a run (yay!). I check their facebooks from time to time. C has nothing public; just her profile photo that never changes. But L has the occasional public status and photo. He recently posted some photos of the baby, and I had so many evil thoughts. They had him dressed in the most hideous clothes: a collared golf shirt that old men wear, and bright kelly green pants! And since he’s 9 1/2 months (I read that baby fat peaks at 9 months) he’s looking like a fat little doofus of a kid. His hair is also very light, which surprises me. I have light brown hair, but not that light, and David’s is dark brown. Anyway, just in case anyone thought I was a nice person: I’m actually an asshole, and I think they’re a dorky little family. Yep.
May 23, 2013 § 4 Comments
If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be? Why?
The dinosaurs! I am so crazy about dinosaurs. I mean, the SIZE of them! How are they not awesome? I would love to go back and see them–safely, of course. David and I had a Jurassic Park marathon recently and we were talking about how few safety precautions the island had, and given the billions of dollars poured into this project, it would’ve been relatively simple to make the island safe. What idiots those (fictional) people were.
If you could only watch one more (or read one book) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Questions like these make me insane just to consider. I would get so sick of anything I decided on!
My favorite book is Catcher in the Rye. I read it when I was 12, and it’s safe to say I’d never felt understood until then. Of course, that sounds ridiculous now and I quickly figured out there are millions of people as cynical and Holden-esque as I am, but it’s still my favorite no matter how many literary gems I’ve since discovered. I own my dad’s old copy, printed in 1966, and it’s dog-eared, musty, and falling apart. Needless to say, it’s one of my most prized possessions.
I couldn’t pick one favorite movie. I guess I wouldn’t want to watch anything depressing over and over, so I’d probably choose to watch the Harold & Kumar series. Those movies make me laugh uncontrollably no matter how many times I’ve seen them.
Who do you want it to seem you made the right choice for? Society? Your baby when he grows up? Yourself?
This was a hard question to answer, because the wording indicates I want anyone to think I made the right choice, and I don’t. The adoption I went through with was unnecessary in many ways. I don’t want anyone to think I made the right choice–it is impossible to have that be true and to not have that say something bad about me. I’m not trying to escape the negative light that my choice paints me in, but I disagree that I would be a bad parent in any way.
As for the baby’s opinions on it when he grows up, that will be up to him. I’m certain he will have a happy, fun-filled, privileged life growing up with his parents, so if he tells me someday that he is glad he was adopted and he doesn’t want to know me, other than to thank me for giving him something better, I’ll have to accept that. But only from him. I will never ever accept that point of view from anyone else.
I guess the questions I’d like to ask are what, besides finding a vocation, have you always wanted to do? You know, things like travel to another country, or what have you…
Well, you mentioned traveling. I’ve already traveled quite a bit. My family has gone to the UK, Mexico, Canada, Scotland, Paris, Amsterdam, and Italy, and we have relatives on both the east and west coast. Amazing, right? I am lucky to have been so many places. But family trips constituted waking up at seven every morning and marching around the city with my family, visiting churches and museums until late in the evening. My mom would literally make a color-coded itinerary and cram as many Rick Steves recommendations, family arguments, and stress into a day as possible. So my wish is to travel sans family.
When I was 20, I made a long “life list” and I still have it. I wanted to own a couture gown, meet an alien, go hang-gliding, buy a vespa, and start a dance party in a public place. What’s really sad is that, now, I crave having a family and I don’t care about much else. Of course I still want to pet a tiger and dive off a cliff, and whatever else, but it doesn’t matter as much anymore. Not even close.
Thanks for entertaining me with questions. I have been incredibly bored, with school ending and my hours at work getting cut at the same time. At least my apartment is clean now.
May 15, 2013 § 6 Comments
Everyone’s hours are getting cut at my work. We already make so little money there, and it’s just going to get worse. (I make a base pay + commission, but the commission is structured to be impossible to earn unless we’re insanely busy, as during the holidays or when we have a huge sale. I’m one of the top salespeople there, and I usually make my base pay of $8.) I’ve been wanting a new job for a while now, anyway, so this is just the impetus to search. I would love to work somewhere higher end and continue to sell suits and other men’s dress wear. It’s something I enjoy and I’m good at it, and how often do you find that in a job? However, my options are limited, and the options I do have probably won’t work out. So, per David’s suggestion, I might apply for a bank teller. I’ve never considered doing that until he suggested it, but I think my years of experience in retail would be relevant to a bank, it would certainly pay better than my current employer, and it would be a nice job that would look great on a resume.
I’m still not sure what I want to do with my life. I want to do something interesting and challenging that has the potential to be flexible, but those are qualities that are hard to find in a career, and at the same time, I’m an extremely hard worker who could get used to just about anything and would find success anywhere. It’s not bragging, it’s true. So, simultaneously, I don’t care what I do or what I end up doing. I just need to figure something out.
Where am I going with this?
I was thinking about how I would feel about the adoption if I became successful versus not. I already know that if I didn’t achieve some kind of success in life, it wouldn’t make me feel better about the adoption. I still would’ve tried my best. My family is solidly upper-middle-class and could have helped me out for a while, if I hadn’t been too proud to ask. David would have helped, too, and he earns $18 an hour. And even if I find a good career, I will never out-earn my son’s parents. L works in a high-profile career and I’m sure he earns six figures. C probably makes less than that, but not by much.
But here’s the rub.
If I remained low-income (which I highly doubt, by the way) then it would look as if I made the right choice. If I got a good job and became successful in that sense and in others, it would still appear as if I made the right choice, as if I couldn’t have done it with a child to take care of, no matter how untrue that is.
There’s no winning.
Does anyone have any questions they want me to answer, or ideas for something I should write about? I feel like writing, but there’s only so much I can say without getting updates. I was crossing my fingers I might receive something small at the 9 month mark, since I got a few pictures at 3 months. But that has come and gone, so I will have to wait another 3 months, for his first birthday.
May 7, 2013 § 27 Comments
This is something I started writing a few weeks ago.
Well, this is an embarrassing story to tell, but I didn’t know how sealed the original birth certificate was. I should have known that “sealed” means “lost forever.” For some reason, though, I thought there was a chance I could get a copy of it. A few weeks ago, I tried searching around the internet to find out if I could obtain the original one. I couldn’t find a precise law about the way that it worked. I know the original OBC is sealed, but I didn’t know if it was sealed from me. I put in a request anyway and just decided to see. Now, I know people are probably thinking, “jeez Ariel, of course you can’t get the birth certificate” and I knew there was a chance of that. But I also thought there was a chance of getting it. It’s just another depressing trinket for the wooden box in my closet, right? Nothing important.
I was surprised by how much it hurt to not get the birth certificate. It’s one more thing that makes our connection less tangible. The lady from the Office of Vital Records called me a few days after I submitted the request, saying she couldn’t find it. She sounded baffled. I said, “Okay, never mind then” because I knew exactly why she couldn’t find it.
“Well, was he born here or somewhere else?” the lady pressed. I told her he was born here, but he was adopted in [state name] and his parents named him [full name].
“And are you the…birthmom?” “Yes.”
After a moment, she said, “I found that entry. The adoption was finalized on February 12th. You can get the birth certificate up until it finalizes, and then it’s sealed. I’m sorry, they should’ve told you.”
Yes, indeed, “they” should have told me a lot of things. I didn’t ask her to, but she was nice enough to refund my money back on my card. They technically could have kept it because you pay a “search fee” when you request a birth certificate.
Of course, the record existed openly within my reach for 6 months, and it still exists somewhere, in an encrypted, court order protected kind of way. But if the lady working at the Office of Vital Records can’t find it, it’s the exact same thing as if that paper was burned. As if that part of the baby’s life with me and David was erased. I’ve read 1984 several times, and I’m reminded of the rewriting of records, the alteration of deleted people as “unpersons,” and the incineration of original documents. The original birth certificate, in the memory hole. The birth name, unimportant. My name and David’s name were on the lines that specified “mother” and “father,” on a document that existed for 6 months, and I never got to see it.
And the baby has a new name, officially. I named him after David, because I love the name and David’s dad (the birth grandpa) is also a David. I really shouldn’t have picked a meaningful name. It hurt a lot more when C and L chose a different first name for him. It’s sort of amazing, how stupid I was then. Aside from hating that they changed his name, I hate the name itself. It makes me think of Harvey the giant rabbit. It’s just a stupid name, especially with their last name.
I’m over the birth certificate thing, now. I don’t need it. What’s one more reminder that I have no connection to the baby? We are not together, and that alone is a loud enough reminder. I do feel bad that I could’ve gotten the original birth certificate, if I had thought of it, but it never occurred to me. He probably won’t care about having it in the future, but if he does, I’ll have let him down. In yet another way.
The mentions of adoption finalization made me sad, too. I had to remind myself that it has nothing to do with me, because my parental rights were terminated one day after birth, effective immediately upon signing. Being an unparent was already as final as it gets. It had to do with C and L becoming his legal parents. I wondered how that went. They must’ve been excited. They must’ve dressed up to go to court and celebrated afterwards. I wouldn’t know.
It’s weird to think how, up until that point, the agency was still having regular contact with them and checking in. The agency didn’t contact me after I left the hospital. I wonder what they’d say if C and L asked about me. I have no doubt they would’ve fed them lies about how well I’m doing. I wonder how long it would take them to find out if I died, or if they would assume that I disappeared. I suddenly realized that if something ever happened to one of them, I would certainly find out on my own, but no one would tell me and I would not find out very quickly. It’s better not to wonder about that.