Thursday, September 27, 2012

mom's the word (updated)

When we were starting this process, I never imagined having an open adoption. In all honesty, I was afraid of one. I'd heard and read enough horror stories to make me want to steer clear of an open contact situation with our child's birth family. And then T came along, and it seemed odd NOT to have contact with her. Not only did I like her on a personal level, but the idea of having that relationship didn't feel threatening. She made it easy to communicate.

So I looked forward to being able to fill her in on the next 18+ years of K's life. I remember her expressing some concern in the beginning that I wouldn't hold up my end of the bargain. That I wouldn't stay in contact. There was no way I would become that person. I couldn't. Not after what she'd done for us. I was happy when she would text and ask for updates about how K was doing in the NICU, and it thrilled me to have her come back to the hospital to see K on the day we took her home.

However, over the last eight weeks, contact has grown from slow to nonexistent. She hasn't responded to my last two emails with photos and updates. I finally reached out via text, and I got a response, though when I replied again, there was no answer the second time.

It seems weird to most people that we would wonder and worry about T. In fact, almost everyone had this response after K's birth: "well, maybe now she'll leave you alone." Family and friends didn't understand that we didn't want her to leave us alone. Of course we don't want her knocking on our door every other day asking to see her (I don't want that from anyone!), but we wanted to be able to maintain those lines of communication. And it wasn't just for practical information, like medical history. It was for K to know how much she's loved, and for us to know that T was okay. We truly care about her, and it's difficult some days not knowing where she is or how she's doing with what we've learned about her situation/background.

I think some perceive us as having "rescued" K from T, and that's not the case. Can we provide for her in ways that T can't? Yes. But it doesn't mean T doesn't love or care about her, or that she wouldn't have done the best she possibly could to parent K. I honestly believe she would have, especially after meeting her other daughters. It hurt in the hospital, before she signed consent, to see some of the nurses treat me differently than they treated her.

Because what people don't understand is that we are BOTH mothers. T might not be raising her, but she gave her the gift of life. And I might not have grown her in my belly, but I will give her the gift of raising her in the best way that I can. Maybe going through infertility has made me better understand the ways in which someone is or becomes a mom. Whether we are mothers to babies who live with us, live in heaven, live with someone else, or live within our hearts, we all love and care for our children.

I don't know what will happen with us and T. I do hope she contacts us soon. Until then, I'll keep holding up my end of the bargain. Because it's the least I can do for her after all that she's done for us.

Update: I feel that I need to clarify this post by saying that I'm not in any way, shape, or form pushing T to contact me. I'm simply sending the emails on the schedule she originally asked for them. As for the text, it was the only one I'm planning to send and her response was that she was happy to hear from me. I've always maintained that she knows we are here, and she knows that she can call or text anytime. I never intended for this post to make it seem as if we weren't respecting her space or giving her time to grieve.


Elizabeth said...

I think that's really normal, because T is probably going through different phases and levels of grief of not being the mom to raise K. So, I imagine that there are some days that it may be difficult to hear about her. That's what our agency told us, that there are times there may no be responses because of processing and grief that the birthmother is going through.
Hope your first week "back" is still going well!

KT said...

She may just be having a hard time with the knowledge that she gave her child up for adoption. Not that 16 and Pregnant is the best resource for this information, but one of the original girls (whose child is now 3) still has regrets about giving her up- despite knowing that it was the best thing for her child.

I would continue to reach out, but realize that she may not be ready to completely embrace the fact that she gave her child up for adoption.

Jaclyn said...

You are doing the right thing for t and your child. The relationship may ebb and flow, as t may need some space to deal with the incredibly difficult task of missing the baby. I'd email t and tell her that the door for contact will always be open and that you will be happy to send her updates on whatever schedule she would prefer ( it might be too hard for her to receive frequent updates now)

JustHeather said...

Beautifully said. For all of your sakes, I hope communication continues in a decent manner.

April said...

We have an option adoption too and I can tell you that our contact has drastically changed after little man was born. I was surprised because it started off so frequent and we grew so close. Your last few sentences is exactly where I am. I will continue to hold up my end because I owe her that much and when she wants to communicate back or see us than we will open our home to her anytime.
Know that its fairly normal from open options that I have heard about. The communication will come and go and come and go. I could have written almost this whole post because I felt that way and still do. I think IF really makes us appreciate so much that we are finally a mom! :)

KC said...

You are very smart and I believe you have the right perspecitive on the situation.
From what little I know about adoption (my best friend has an open adoption with her daughter's birth mother and is actually adopted herself and my aunt adopted my two cousins) there are stages of adoption. It is kind of like the grieving process but of course very different at the same time. They are dealing with their decision and have to process things. Sometimes this means distancing themselves. However,they often begin to feel guilty for not maintaining contact. I think you are doing the right thing by maintaining communication and making T know that she is valued and that you are there when she is ready to proceed.
Take care

It Is What It Is said...

I am sorry that contact from T has dwindled but it likely has to do with the very reasons she placed K to begin with...she has a life to live and she is living it.

I know you don't want to let her down, but I would also take care in taking your cues from her. Clearly, there is something going on with her at this point, and it is possible that down the road that will likely change. I believe there is a grieving process, no matter how good a placement is, and sometimes that burden is a lot (too much?) for a birth mom to bear.

She is adjusting to a new normal and I am sure that is fraught with emotional. Perhaps you can ease off the pedal a bit, give her the space she might be asking for and be receptive once she reaches out.

There is no rule book for this, but you've clearly noticed a change in behavior and perhaps you need to honor that for the time being.

Emily said...

I agree that it's probably too painful for T to keep in regular contact at the moment. That doesn't mean she doesn't appreciate your emails, just that maybe right now she can't reach out to you. I think it's good that you're upholding your end of the deal, and I'm sure T will come around soon. If not, it's not for a lack of trying on your part. Hugs to you!

Becky said...

We've found with our 2 open adoptions, that the boys' birth families level of contact waxes and wanes. What we try to do is just be responsive every time they do initiate contact, and also initiate on our own regularly. We want them to know we're still here, whenever they're ready. It is hard, though, wondering how they are, worrying about them.

Rach said...

Based on the other adoptive parents I know, it is very common for the BM to distance herself after placement. But, they do grieve and heal and start to come around when they are ready.

Our BM did this. After 1 month we didnt hear a word from her until Avas 1st birthday. She sent a gift, a letter to Avalyn, and a letter to Jon and I.

Even though we didnt hear anything for almost a year, we always sent our letters and pictures, and I kept our blog updated regularly.

I didnt know if she was even looking at the blog but in her letter to us she stated that she loves the blog and watching her grow up and that it has helped her a lot.

Amber said...

I really hope that I don't offend anyone with this comment because that is truly NOT my intention.

I just... after reading through these comments... I have to wonder if people realize just how much they are speaking on behalf of K's birth mother? Or how judgmental some sound about how Katie is handling this situation. I know that's probably not the intention, but it seems to be the result.

As an adoptive mother of two myself, I can say without hesitation that relationships with birth parents are complex. It is so hard finding balance. A constant turmoil of emotion wondering if they are needing distance from you or if they are wanting you to contact them more. Wondering how they're doing and what their lives are like now. If they're *really* telling you the truth in their emails back to you about how they're doing.

I could be wrong, but I felt that *that* was the heartbeat of this post - not needing to be told, more or less, that she needs to back off from T. When you are close with the birth mother (as we are to ours), there is an indescribable bond between the two of you - forever linked because you're the mother of the same child. Emotions are... rampant. And confusing. Boundaries are being established and each party is figuring out a happy balance. Where they can live in their lives, while you build your family... but still have room for one another. It's a delicate thing. And not one that is taken lightly by either mother... as this post so beautifully expresses.

Katie, for what it's worth, I think you are doing a fantastic job of navigating these murky waters. As another person noted: there are no handbooks for this. Not for parenthood in general or for the special circumstances that come with the privilege of parenting and loving an adopted child. There is no one that knows the relationship you have with T better than you. If I may so bold as to give this one piece of advice: just keep following your heart. It has not led you wrong so far. Even on your darkest day.

I hope/pray that you and T are able to find your balance sooner than later.

Glass Case of Emotion said...

I think it's wonderful that you guys have an open adoption. I also came to love A (our birth mother) as much as I love any other family member. It was hard for me initially as we got super close and talked often, then as she went through some of her grieving, she pulled away. Which I totally understand, and I missed her during that time. Things definitely do wax and wane, but I always reach out to her even when I don't hear back. I think she reads when she feels like it. But, I agree, she's always so glad I reached out even when she doesn't feel like she can look at it, at that time.

In any case, I know exactly what you mean- we are both mothers. And I can 100% agree with the relationship you build with a birth mom being more valuable and important than many others understand...

Logical Libby said...

After Meg was born I felt I had bonded more with her birth mother than I had with her. It was really hard to pull away. I felt like I would raise her too if I could. Of course, that isn't an option, and everyone needs to be able to find their own space in adoption situations. I am sure T will find hers.

Geochick said...

We are in the beginning phases of open adoption too and are having some communication/non-response issues too. I keep reminding myself that we don't know what C is going through. It kind of feels like dating again though and it drives me nuts some days.