Category Archives: Adoption

Words

I read a lot of adoption blogs. From every perspective. For awhile, I read the blogs obsessively. Thank goodness my bosses do not track Internet usage at work, or I’d be in trouble.

I read the blogs for several reasons: to gain perspective; to sort through my own conflicting feelings; to find positive open adoption models; to explore worst-case scenarios … essentially, I think it’s my way of both “being prepared” and gaining wisdom — I’m hoping that works a bit like osmosis, through my mouse as I click and scroll through many years of archives.  It’s worth more than mentioning that I also read several for the simple fact that they are incredibly well-written and insightful.

A post that is so common to all the blogs is adoption language. It is so common that I won’t fool myself into thinking I might have something to add to the dialogue. I’ve read about language so often, that I thought I’d be totally prepared to respond to inquiries I found intrusive, and to comments I found offensive.

When Ponce first came home, many of our neighbours had questions that definitely fell into both categories. One neighbour in particular, let’s call her Troll, left me searching for words (and for my backbone). Some of the very first words out of her mouth included the following questions: Didn’t his birth mother want him? Is he healthy? Where did you get him from? And “Was he expensive”?

I’ve never liked this woman. She’s a teacher, has been for some 30 years … how can she be so completely ignorant? Early in our adoption, I revealed too much, to too many people. I was convinced it was my job to enlighten people about adoption, so I answered every one of her questions truthfully. Later though, I felt horrible that I hadn’t just shut her down when it became clear that her questions weren’t as much about wanting to learn about adoption, but about having the inside scoop on neighbourhood gossip. (This peach of a woman, also informed me that Ponce’s barely visible birth mark on the back of his neck, could be removed by laser — in fact she had it done to her daughter when she was a few months old!). I wish I could take back the information I shared with her. I wish I had the words to rebuff her politely. I have them now, so bring it on! (A discussion forum somewhere online offered this polite rebuff, and I’ve been hoping to use it every since: Why do you ask?). The mean part of my brain would rather respond with invasive questions of my own, but I’m just not that person.

The receptionist at my work recently told me the “well-meaning” story of an acquaintance of hers who had adopted siblings many years back, “but their birth mother was addicted to drugs, this was not an easy, clean, healthy adoption like yours.” (This is the same person who will randomly tell me about twice a month that I “look really sick” or that I “seem pale or tired, are you okay?”). I was so taken aback that I was again, lost for words. I’m not sure what about those words bugged me the most. The fact that she would so flippantly compare our adoptions? The fact that she’s making massive assumptions about my adoption? That she appears to be placing more value on Ponce because as far as she knows he was not exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero? I’m sure some of her assumptions come from me sharing too much at the beginning (and rose-colouring much of Ponce’s pre-birth history). I left the office that day feeling bad that I didn’t have a retort handy, bad that people rank adoptions in their minds, and sad that the adopted siblings she was referring to hadn’t deserved enough privacy for their health information not to be shared by their parents.

An oft-heard comment that I DO respond to regularly is the “Ponce is just so lucky to have you as parents.” I’m not going to deny that we are pretty awesome, but all I can think of when I hear this is everything Ponce has lost. And all the “unlucky” that his birth families have experienced by not having the opportunity to raise him. My response for this, handily provided in adoption training, is a firm “No, it is WE who are lucky to parent him.” Luck should have nothing to do in a child’s right to be parented by awesome parents. All children should be able to expect that by the simple fact of being born. I rarely feel like people “get” it though when I respond with that one. I’m not sure how else to make it clear.

My family is pretty progressive. Still, I hear things from them that catch in my heart. My mom can’t stop herself from referring to Ponce as having been “given up.” My father regularly refers to Ponce’s “real family” when discussing his birth family. It’s easy for me to correct them because they are family, they love me, and mostly they “get” it. But if I can’t get my own family to two the adoption language line, then what chance to I have against the rest of the world that I eventually won’t be able to protect Ponce from?

Last week, my sister posted a comment on Facebook relating to a childhood photo. It went something along the lines of, “I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t adopted.” Um … what’s wrong with being adopted? I KNOW that’s not how she meant it. And adoption “jokes” have been a running source of amusement of both mine and my husband’s families (with siblings being “taunted” with the possibility for many years). Ugh, I kind of thought this kind of humour would disappear without us having to intervene. (Also, how could I have been such an ignorant jerk in the past to have participated in this kind of humour!) Even though I know that my sister wasn’t being mean-spirited with her comment, the fact that she said it so flippantly now that she is aunt to an adopted nephew broke my heart. Thank goodness it was end of day because I left the office with tears streaming down my face. She was supposed to “get it” without me having to intervene. … I know that I won’t be able to protect Ponce from much of anything in a few short years, but right now … right now … I don’t want there to exist a comment anywhere on his family’s Facebook page’s that might even remotely make him feel less valued because he is adopted. (I did resolve this with my sister, after I had calmed down, and all is well. She is pretty great.)

Having obsessively read adoption blogs for the past year, I can attest to the fact that the Internet is full of good advice regarding adoption language and responding to busy-bodies. Why then, even after such obsessive-reading, am I still so inept at responding to adoption-ignorant people? I’ve really got to get my shit together because pretty soon, Ponce will be able to understand what the Trolls of the world are asking me about him.

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Guilt

I fell in love with Ponce the moment I heard about him. Seeing him for the first time was icing on the cake. There is not a doubt in my mind that from the moment I held him for the first time I would have traded my life so that he would never experience a single troubled thought. HOWEVER … I would say that it has taken me about nine months to be certain that I could not love him more. I can’t even write that without worrying that someone reading this will misunderstand me.

I have spent nine months trying to explain this to myself. Maybe it’s just the way I am. Maybe no matter how my child came to me I would have been one of those mothers who doesn’t bond immediately. I think of bonding in degrees, as a spectrum. I bonded with Ponce right away, but it wasn’t until very recently that I KNEW  that I felt what I SHOULD be feeling: That I missed him when I put him to bed at night (rather than being happy with him during the day, but looking forward to bedtime for some alone time); that when I woke up before him on a Saturday morning I didn’t have a fleeting moment of “dread” if he woke up before I finished my tea … I felt a lot of guilt for these feelings.

I don’t know that there was a specific incident that caused me to finally feel the feelings I knew I “should” be feeling … but getting there has allowed me a lot of time to ponder “guilt.” I think that it may be just my nature to bond slowly, over time. I fell in love with my husband slowly. I fell in love with my dog slowly. I’m not sure I’m fully bonded to my own parents, but that also is growing and becoming more evident over time. But part of my also wonders if Ponce’s adoption is part of the reason for my slow bonding.

I feel a lot of GUILT around Ponce’s adoption. Everything from feeling guilty that we added to our family before other couples who are just as amazing (maybe more amazing) than we are. That Ponce’s first mom lied about his existence, taking away an opportunity for her parents to raise Ponce (and they are amazing, and deserving). That Ponce’s birth dad never knew about Ponce until he was in our care. That every night when I kiss Ponce goodnight, there are at least three other people who wish they were the ones kissing him goodnight. I feel guilt about being given this incredible, awesome gift, and opportunity to love and raise Ponce, and yet knowing that it took me almost nine months to FEEL like a mom should feel (head over heels, crazy in love with her child) … there is just so much guilt and for whatever reason, I seem to be extra susceptible to feeling it.

I know that Ponce’s birth family would never want me to feel any of this. Let alone know that it may have had an effect on my ability to fully bond with Ponce right away. See, if I let myself I could let this circle of guilt perpetuate itself ad nauseam … and what good is that? For anybody?

I know that I could spend my brain energy elsewhere. And for Valentine’s day I am giving myself that gift. Ponce’s first mother chose to relinquish him. Nobody in her life pushed her to do this. Ponce had been in care for two months before we ever got the call about him. WE were not involved in his birth mother’s decisions to lie to her family or lie about his birth father. We do not own any of that guilt. The only guilt we could own is of not allowing Ponce’s birth family into his life … and considering his birth grandparents just spent an evening in our home babysitting him … I think we’re on the right track with that one.

We are fantastic parents. And Ponce is happy and thriving. I am ridding myself of guilt I do not own.

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Dear S,

I am so confused by you. On the one hand, here is a little boy that I love beyond belief. And you carried him. I love you for that. Dada2Ponce and I have been getting to know some of your family. And we love them. Watching Ponce with them is magic. He can’t get enough of your sister. I know you were close with her, and I can’t help thinking that he recognizes her voice.

I think of you all the time. I wonder what you are doing. I wonder if you think a lot about Ponce. This is the second baby you’ve placed for adoption. Ponce’s brother is some 10 years older than him. Your mom says that you do not grasp the realities of many of your decisions, including the one to keep Ponce a secret from your family and his birth father. She does not think that you struggle with your decision to place or that you  have regrets or much of a connection to Ponce.

I don’t know if I can believe that. Maybe it’s because I have spent so much time online trying to understand you through some of the amazing first mother blogs that are out there. That some of the grieving, sadness, regret that they feel with regards to the biological children they aren’t parenting are the same feelings I would imagine having if it were me. I can’t connect at all with the image of you going about your life as though Ponce never happened. I can’t bring myself to believe that anyone could feel that way about Ponce.

I love you. But I’m also so mad at you. You drank throughout most of your pregnancy. You have put Ponce at risk for so many FASD-related issues. It will take a good 20 years for us to be certain Ponce wasn’t affected. With the amount of binge drinking that you did, the odds of Ponce being unaffected are incredibly slim.  Most people don’t know this, but experts believe some quarter to half of the prison population may be somewhere on the FAS spectrum. A frightening percentage of people with FASD diagnoses end up having serious run ins with the law. It’s impossible to believe that this could someday describe our sweet Ponce. The spectrum ranges from inhibitions and learning disabilities all the way to never developing an ability to understand right from wrong, take responsibility for your actions, and an inability to learn from your mistakes. Ponce, my sweet, perfect, funny, clever, gorgeous Ponce. It is unbearable for me to imagine him hurting in any way. I wish you had been able to stop drinking while you were pregnant.

And the lying … I want to be angry at you for lying to your family and to J. They never knew you were pregnant. But I also imagine you alone and pregnant. Hiding your secret in plain sight. J was long gone by the time you began to show, but you lived with your family. How alone you must have felt. And how determined you must have been that neither they nor J raise Ponce. I have to respect that you must have had your reasons. Knowing what I know about J, I would have been very worried about him raising Ponce. Your family though … they are such warm, giving people. Was it because this was the second unplanned pregnancy?

I am working hard at understanding all of this. At processing it. I have to. For Ponce. And for me.

I hope that you are OK and that we might meet someday soon. I hope that you do think of Ponce and that when you do it doesn’t hurt as much as I imagine it might.

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Filed under Adoption, FASD

Dear J,

It has been almost three months since we last emailed.

Your response to our introductory email was very positive. But very short. You said you needed time. That it was all too much, but that you had so much to say. We responded that we understood and we told you we’d be here when you were ready. We’re here. We’re still here.

Ponce’s social worker, SC, insists the proverbial “ball” is in your court and that we should wait for you to reach out. But I want you to know that my heart breaks for you. And that I wonder all the time if you wish we would reach out again. We didn’t forget you at Christmas. We won’t be forgetting you at Ponce’s upcoming birthday. Everything we said in that letter still holds true.

SC says that you have told him that you don’t plan to put forward a parenting plan for Ponce. I’m not going to pretend I’m not incredibly relieved, Ponce is my life, my every breath. I am also “gifted/burdened” with a super-human capacity for empathy. I can’t tell you how strange it is to have half my brain living in terror of you deciding to contest the adoption, while the other half of my brain dies for you; for the impossible situation you were put in.

You probably don’t know how much we know about you. SC shares all of our discussions with us. As an expert Googler I have tracked down a lot of information about you (at least the you leading up to January 2010) on old MySpace and Facebook accounts. We know that you grew up in the system. We know you have anger issues. We know that you went to Paris once. We know that you have posted photos of yourself online that you will probably regret posting one day. We know that you can play the guitar. We know that you like to skateboard. We know what kind of music you like. We know other things about you, a lot of it unflattering, some of it scary. But I know that despite those things that we know you are/once were, that there is a chance that had you been given the opportunity, you would have changed everything so that you could have been a great dad to Ponce.

The unfairness of how this all played out is not lost on me. I think about it daily. S didn’t tell you about her pregnancy and she lied about your name in the court documents. It’s the only reason that Ponce was placed with us.

It has been about six months since you found out about Ponce. If knowing how amazing Ponce is doing helps at all, then I’d like to tell you more about him:

Ponce is an incredibly easy-going and happy baby. We are the envy of all our friends. We occasionally have to lie about things like the fact that he’s been sleeping through the night since he was three months old (and I mean 10+ hours here without waking up). He only cries when there’s something wrong (or when a tooth is poking its way through — he has six now! And boy does he know how to use them). Ponce has two dimples. I think he gets them from you. He’s totally stunning. His hair his a sandy blonde/red colour now and it curls when it’s wet or when he gets too warm. He has an AMAZING sense of humour. He knows when he’s being funny and totally hams it up. He can clap now. His daycare provider is teaching him how to “blow” so that he’ll have some success with his birthday cake candles in a couple of months. He LOVES the water. We took him camping for a week when he was five months old. He bobbed around in a great lake and shrieked with delight. He loves his bath. He loves his swimming “lessons.” We love him beyond lunacy.

We haven’t been pushing through our social worker or Ponce’s maternal family who still have some contact with you. We’re determined that you make your decision without outside influence. I hang on to the hope that you being able to make your decision yourself will be something you can look back on and eventually feel some peace about a situation that you didn’t have much control over.

I hope that you’re ok. I’m not naive enough to hope for more than that. I. HOPE. THAT. YOU’RE. OK. And above all, I hope that there are people, or at least someone, in your life that is holding your hand and being gentle with your heart.

Here are some recent photos of Ponce. SC says you printed the last ones we sent and posted them everywhere in your appartment.

Ponce in a Sunbeam

Ponce reads his very first postcard!

Ponce hangin' at Grand-Papa's over the holidays

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