Thursday, March 25, 2010

Keepin' It Real

The scene: my bedroom, 8:30 pm, with Lauren. I am getting ready to remove my shirt and put on my pajamas.

L: Mommy, I want to see your big things.
Me: [in a matter of fact tone, in an effort to promote a positive body image] Do you remember what they’re called?
L: No.
Me: Breasts.
L: Oh. [pause] When I grow up, I’m going to have some of those instead of [gestures to her own chest] these little things.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Interview with Luna

I am participating in the Open Adoption Bloggers Interveiw Project, and had the pleasure of interviewing Luna of Life From Here: Musings from the Edge. She also interviewed me, and you can find that here.

So, here are luna's very thoughtful answers to my questions. Enjoy!

1. What’s been the best (or most surprising/delightful/inspiring) part about blogging about your journey to parenthood?

When I started blogging, I was in the midst of treatment for infertility and adoption was not really an option. Treatment was a dead end, and I had lost all hope of becoming a mama. I was grieving. Soon it became clear that adoption was our best potential path to parenthood. A new door opened, and we took our first steps on this new path of our journey.

Throughout the transition from hopeless to hopeful, I was so moved by the support I found in the blogosphere. This space gave me solace. It was catharsis. It was affirmation and therapy. I had no idea it would become my lifeline to others who understood, who offered compassion and not pity. Some had been there, some were right there with me. At a time when I felt so isolated and alone, blogging provided a critical outlet and connection. It helped open my eyes to other possibilities. I was inspired by those who had walked before me, and I felt supported even by those just passing through.

I've also been delighted to hear about the impact my story has had on others. Several readers have said that mine was one of few stories that had evolved right before their eyes. Truly the story unfolding in "real life" was reflected in my writing. I hadn't really thought that my path could help light another's some day. But maybe it will.

Looking back, I can trace the evolution of my journey to parenthood through my blog. I love that at least part of my story has been captured here in these pages. From devastation to joy, it's all there.

2. How did you view open adoption when you first began considering adoption as a way to build your family? (Did you know much about it, did the thought of an open adoption scare you or were you always positive about open adoption?)

Too often I think prospective adoptive parents enter into open adoption from a place of fear rather than love.

I did a lot of self educating about open adoption before I had the opportunity to live it. I read books, articles and blogs from all perspectives in the triad. I spoke with birth parents and adoptive families. I listened to the stories of adoptees. I sought out professionals specializing in open adoption to learn more.

Early on, I thought open adoption simply meant the expectant parents chose the family and maintained minimal contact after placement. I thought it was more for birth parents than the adoptee. When we first considered adoption to build our family -- before exploring treatment as an option -- I was concerned about (what I perceived as) "competition" with other waiting families who had so much to offer. We didn't have a huge home or fancy cars. I was afraid we'd be "waiting" for years. Later I realized it wasn't a competition at all, since different things will appeal to different people and each "match" is so unique.

When we began learning more, it became clear why we would want an open adoption for our child. Eventually I overcame the common fear that I wouldn't feel like the baby's "mother," because while I would not give birth, I would be parenting this child. While our baby would have two mothers to love him/her, openness did not mean "co-parenting." I realized that both the birth mother and I would have critical and distinct roles in our child's life. Then the concept of openness made perfect sense. It also eliminated any need to feel "threatened" by my child's relationship with his/her birth mother. I would be able to offer our child so much, but I could not provide that connection to her heritage. I would welcome the person into our family who could provide that for our child.

I wanted information about our child's family of origin to be accessible I didn't want to have to say "I don't know." I didn't want secrets or shame. My hope was to provide access when questions arose. I wanted to help our child integrate his/her stories to feel whole, to feel loved. I felt my job was to ensure every possibility for a relationship, or at the very least a connection. At best, we would broaden the circle of people to love this child. Soon I realized that I feared a closed adoption far more than I ever feared openness.

I had one outstanding fear before we met K, Baby J's birth mom. I knew that opening my heart and our home would require connection and trust. I was afraid we wouldn't be able to connect or build that trust, that we would not find the "right match." I feared the scrutiny, on both sides. I feared wanting a baby so much that I might overlook something. I feared discomfort, awkwardness. Of course when we met and instantly connected with K, those fears dissipated. All of a sudden, I saw how it could work. I saw how easy it would be to open our hearts to this young woman, not because we wanted to parent her child, but because she was an incredibly kind and thoughtful person and we cared about her well being. We wanted her to make the best decision for herself, whatever it was. When K asked us to parent her baby, it was clear that our family would grow by more than just one.

3. What do you think are the main advantages to open adoption versus closed adoption?

I truly believe that open adoption benefits everyone in the triad.

I used to think that openness was primarily for the expectant parents.* They could they be empowered to choose the adoptive family with a chance to witness the child's development and opportunities to share their love and celebrate the child's life. I thought that early and ongoing contact would be important for healing -- i.e., that to see and know the child might help diminish a very real loss. Openness helped us establish a wonderful relationship and trust early on. K knows we consider her family and she is always welcome in our home. That offers her some peace.

I believe the benefits of openness to the child are paramount. When possible, I think early contact is important so the baby is not immediately and permanently separated from her mother at birth. Studies have shown a smooth transition can help infant development. K wanted us at the birth so we could begin to bond immediately with the baby. Then we spent a lot of time with K for the first two months of Baby J's life, which actually made others uncomfortable but seemed natural to us. It made my heart happy to see K holding Baby J. While it was K's heart I was concerned about (not mine), she said it was healing to be with us.

I think it's important to maintain contact because, as I said above, I think the child has a right to information and access to his/her family of origin. I feel a responsibility as an adoptive parent to preserve that connection until my daughter is old enough to act on it herself. When she has questions (about her adoption or ancestry) who better to answer them than her birth family? I also want her to know her birth siblings, should she have some one day. She would have none of that in a closed adoption. She might spend years and endless emotional energy wondering, searching, and fantasizing about her birth family. She has a right to know.

Most importantly, I think you can't deny the benefit of love the birth family has for the placed child. I think everyone has a right to express and receive that love. As an adoptive parent, I don't feel I should restrict that (except to the extent necessary to preserve the sanctity and safety of our family). The greatest benefit of all is that our daughter will feel love from her birth family, many of whom have become part of our extended family. If we can help our daughter process her story, maybe we can help her integrate the feelings of loss she may experience from not growing up in her family of origin. Maybe we can all help her to feel healthy and whole.

Finally, openness has had another unexpected benefit for me as an adoptive mother. Being chosen to be our daughter's parents has been quite empowering for me. Knowing that K is who made me a parent provided me with a healthy sense of entitlement to be this little girl's mama. Being treated as "mom" by K and her family has been so affirming. What a privilege.

(*Note: I realize that openness is often dangled in front of expectant mothers to entice them to place their babies. Unfortunately, openness can be held out as a promise that is not always kept.)

4. I’ve heard it said that adoption “cures” childlessness, but it doesn’t cure infertility – what are your thoughts about that? (What’s your “relationship” with your infertility like these days? Do you view infertility any differently now that you have a child?)

This is such a good question that I threw it right back at you. I think it's true that adoption "cures" childlessness but not infertility. Through adoption I became a mother, but I am still an infertile woman.

I had to "resolve" my infertility before I could even consider adoption, because I knew I had to heal myself before I could be anyone's mama. As I've said before, it is not the job of any child to "cure" or "heal" anyone; that is far too great a burden to unload on any child. I had to come to peace with my infertility and accept that my body would not produce and carry a child to term. I had to learn to love myself despite not being able to do what others have done so easily for eons. Infertility took so much from me, and I had to let it all go.

Infertility left me wounded. It ripped my heart open and left deep scars in its wake. I worked hard to heal my heart so I could share it with the child that would join our family through adoption. I am by all accounts a much happier person since becoming a mother. I am so fortunate that my life has taken such a beautiful turn, and I haven't looked back. Still, the scars are deep beneath the surface, and with certain triggers those wounds can feel unexpectedly raw again.

Some people say that infertility, like grief, is like an old friend (or adversary) you bump into now and again, or an old hat you can pull out of a box and try on every once in a while. By that I mean that once you get past the devastation and move on to a more fulfilling place (with or without a child), the persistent effects of infertility subside but don't simply disappear. They can resurface, sometimes when you least expect it.

But now I have experienced the joy that motherhood brings. Every day, I have the privilege of being mama to the most wonderful little girl. And I would not trade that for anything.

I suppose I now view infertility as something I survived, something that defeated but did not destroy me. I refuse to let infertility define me anymore. I am finally "mama."

5. While being a mom is, of course, great, is there anything you miss about your pre-baby life?

I've been asked this before and the real answer is no, I don't miss a thing. We had plenty of time to enjoy all the things that people do before they have children. Too much time, really.

Sometimes I do miss sleeping through the night, uninterrupted. But mostly I cherish those moments in the wee morning hours, rocking quietly with my sweet girl's little neck nestled into the crook of my arm, feeling her weight while she sips warm milk and falls back asleep.

Of course sometimes I think it would be cool to go to a movie or a concert again, and do some more traveling. But that day will come, eventually. By then I imagine I will long for those days when our little girl was just a tiny baby...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day "Off"

I had my first day off yesterday as part of my new schedule.  I'm so glad I had time to do some things that otherwise would (maybe) get done on the weekends (during nap time), or after Lauren goes to bed, or on a vacation day.

I took Lauren to the dentist, then to school, then had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time (good food, great conversation, particularly about writing). I went to Whole Foods and stocked up on organic/free-range/hormone- and pesticide-free goodies.  I vacuumed, Swiffered and mopped my kitchen floor. I scrubbed all my kitchen chairs and the table legs (ew). I did some laundry. I went to the UPS store, Target and Kohl's. I picked Lauren up, made dinner, hung out with her and put her to bed.

I am exhausted! Work is so much easier.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I just emailed another reporter and sent her an article about positive adoption language. She wrote an article about a pregnant girl "...who is deciding whether to keep her baby or put it up for adoption."

What is this, 1950? "put it up for adoption" -- like she's posting an ad or craigslist or something? (uh, if craigslist existed in know what I'm trying to say)

I can assure you that pregnant girls/women who are considering adoption do not do so lightly. It's hurtful to both the birth mother and to adopted children to speak about the process as if one is throwing an object up on a shelf somewhere for someone else to pick up. The correct term is "make an adoption plan."

I have once before written a reporter about this (yes, politely), and he was very gracious in his response. I might come across here like I'm angry about it (because I kind of am; more so annoyed), but have written to reporters in the spirit of educating them, as I have been educated along the way.

Here's what I sent them, from Adoptive Families Magazine:

"The way we talk—and the words we choose—say a lot about what we think and value. When we use positive adoption language, we say that adoption is a way to build a family just as birth is. Both are important, but one is not more important than the other. Choose the following positive adoption language instead of the negative talk that helps perpetuate the myth that adoption is second best. By using positive adoption language, you’ll reflect the true nature of adoption, free of innuendo."

[then there's a list of positive and negative language that I can't seem to paste in here, but it includes things like using the term "birth parent" instead of "real parent"--if you're interested in the list, go here.

More from Adoptive Families magazine:

"Words not only convey facts, they also evoke feelings. When a TV movie talks about a "custody battle" between "real parents" and "other parents," society gets the wrong impression that only birthparents are real parents and that adoptive parents aren’t real parents. Members of society may also wrongly conclude that all adoptions are "battles." Positive adoption language can stop the spread of misconceptions such as these. By using positive adoption language, we educate others about adoption. We choose emotionally "correct" words over emotionally-laden words. We speak and write in positive adoption language with the hopes of impacting others so that this language will someday become the norm."

*Update* Just got this from the reporter:
"Thank you so much for the correction. I'll make sure to change it immediately. I really do appreciate it. Thanks and have a great day."