Tag Archives: adoption grief

First Contact: Birth Family

I sifted my fingers through. I banked up the sides. I carefully patted it back into place. My little pile of worries and insecurities.

It doesn’t feel so little as I slog through traffic and construction on my way to The Meeting. I’m preoccupied by the width and breadth of it. I suppose it is to be expected, from a student of psychology and a writer… worse yet, a blogger. A whole lot of self-absorbed navel-gazing.

I prayed my way through a list of concerns, for each of the people attending, saving my favourite subject until last. Me. How do I feel? What am I thinking? How will this affect me?

But it isn’t about me.

We slipped in the door 7 minutes late. They were sitting around the table already: the social workers with Birth Mom, Nana and Papa. Pleasantries are awkward and Nana can’t even look us in the eye.

Because this is hard.

WE haven’t taken him away from them, but he is gone all the same. They need, need, need… beyond what we can provide. We promise the bare minimum. Better not to disappoint. “We’ll see” is the watchword. A couple of meetings a year, pictures every few months… but it’s not the same as being Mommy every day or Nana who bakes cookies or Papa who explains what “offside” is.

Suddenly my little pile seems insignificant. One uncomfortable hour cannot compare to years of loss. Years past and years to come. We find common ground in a strange place as Birth Mom admits “at first, I didn’t even want to come and meet you.”

But it isn’t about them.

We show each other our best sides. They share little bits and pieces about S and their family. We greedily store away each morsel. He got his hair from his Birth Dad. The curls remind them of his big brother. They are hockey fans too.

Most importantly, we joke to diffuse the tension. It works. We can laugh together and that is a relief. It’s proof positive that our boy has a sense-of-humour-gene in the mix. I’m relieved. Humourlessness is a serious issue (ha ha ha… don’t judge me).

Birth Mom is young and sweet. She speaks with confidence. She calls him her “Miracle Baby” – the little champ who fought his way through every problem. She is trying to do the same. She is lovely.

Nana is protective, sentimental, sad… she is still grieving. And Papa wants to fix it all, but can’t.

By the time we leave, we are friends of a sort. We’ve faced anger and tears and discomfort. We’ve come out the other side because we are on the same page.

It’s all about him.

As long as he is happy. As long as he is safe. As long as he KNOWS that he is loved by all his family, in all its forms.

I don’t expect every meeting to go this smoothly. It will get bumpy and hard and inconvenient. We’ve inherited a new branch of “in-laws” and all the troubles that come with it. But that’s a pile for another day.

So here’s me, putting our son ahead of my comfort. Because that’s what Moms do.

Advertisements

Losing My Cool

Turns out, I’m not as cool in real life as I am in theory.

I’m talking about the kind of cool that stays calm and collected in the face of a challenge. The serene, unflappable cool that takes life as it comes and assumes that God is in control and everything is going to work out.

If you’ve read this blog before, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise.

But it’s caught me off guard this week. You see, I was sure I knew how I felt about my son’s birth family. I was adamant that they are an important part of my child’s life and therefore, important to me. I was compassionate about their struggles and their losses. I was encouraged by every indication they gave of love and interest in S. I was cautiously optimistic about openness and a continuing relationship with them; regular updates, pictures, and biannual meetings on neutral ground did not seem much to ask. I was secure enough and mature enough to face their angst and anger without taking it personally.

Until we actually set the time for the meeting. Suddenly my high-minded ideals seem naive and impossible. Though my mind continues to believe the truth of it, my heart revolts. I am sad. I am threatened. I am afraid. And I am, inexplicably, angry.

This week I will finally meet the mother of my son.

That sentence doesn’t even make sense. It is unnatural and strange. I share this incredibly intimate bond with a woman I have never met. I know heartbreaking details of her most difficult struggles. I know as much about her medical history as any doctor. And her child is now my child.

She carried him in her body. She felt his first kicks. Her voice was one of the first sounds his ears heard. She held him in the NICU. But she was young and broken and overwhelmed. She could not be what he needed.

Unlike many adoptions nowadays, she did not choose us. Nor did she choose adoption for her child, though she agreed not to fight the ministry on it. So far.

Our adoption is not finalized yet.

After 6 months in our custody, the government will apply to make it permanent (this takes another 2-3 months). It is extremely unlikely that anything should threaten this, but not impossible. Someone could petition the court to overturn the placement. Someone could try to take our boy.

Friends of ours recently lost the child they are desperate to adopt, abruptly taken and returned to his birth mom. Their grief and very real concern about his safety is palpable. Legal or not, he is their son. And they are devastated.

My cool, rational brain recognizes that this is not a realistic worry for us. But my heart isn’t always rational. And I won’t breathe easy until we hold the final papers in our hands.

Birth family is not our enemy.

This is the family that brought our beautiful boy into the world. They gave him a name. They dreamed dreams for him.

We have a plastic-covered book of pictures which we call “Everyone Loves S.” The first page is a picture of our family, the next section contains pictures of foster family and the last pages are pictures of Birth Mommy and brothers and grandparents. As we look through it with him, we name each face and tell him “Nana loves S, Poppa loves S… Everyone loves S.”

It’s true. They really do. As best they can. And we know enough of their story to understand where things have fallen apart for them. They are not evil, heartless villains, just flesh and blood people who are in over their heads.

And some part of me is glad, because now I have the son I wanted so badly. This competitive streak is alarming. I examine their shortcomings and am reassured that we can do a better job as parents. Mine! I see their dark hair and eyes, noticing that S looks more like my children than theirs. Mine! And I know it is ridiculous to be this petty and insecure, but he is mine, mine, mine…

I guess I’m not as mature and confident as I thought.

But I can play it cool.

I will let my mind and not my heart guide me. I will set aside my fear and insecurity. I will keep mama bear in check. I will protect, but not attack. I will pray when I want to obsess and forgive when I want to judge and trust when I am overwhelmed.

Adoption has enough losses already. This week we will try to build something positive and redeem some connection with his past. Because that is what my son deserves.

So here’s me, and I know it’s not a competition. I read “Percival the Plain Little Cattepillar” 7 times a day. I catch him when he leaps off the monkey bars. I wipe his nose and change his diaper. I teach him to sign “please” when he wants ANOTHER handful of blueberries. I rock him to sleep every night. I’m his Mom.


%d bloggers like this: