Category Archives: Parenting

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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